CunninLynguists – Strange Journey Volume 3

cunninlynguists - strange journey vol 3

Strange Journey Volume Three

As the name suggests, Strange Journey Volume Three is the third installment of the sideproject-esque “Strange Journey” series that the CunninLynguists tend to put out between releases of their standalone albums.

Formed in 2001, CunninLynguists is a well-respected and oftentimes visionary group that has matured in skill and confidence through countless hours in the lab and on tour. Their standalone studio albums tend to push the envelope in terms of production and thematic content, presenting concepts that are light years ahead of their peers. A Piece of Strange (2006) explores the twisted paths that lead to and from sin, delving into the dark world of vices in a slightly more nuanced way than most contemporaries, say, Lil’ Wayne on his track “Pussy, Money, Weed”. The album Oneirology (2011) forms a smoky web of dark and expansive sound around the loose concept of the dream world, attempting to pierce the opaque vale that separates our ideas and dreams from everyday reality. It’s safe to say that there is no lack of inspiration and gravity behind the typical CunninLynguists project.

The “Strange Journey” series is a perfect complement to these highly cerebral standalone albums. They are present-day throwbacks that pay homage to an earlier time, featuring MC’s like J-Live, Del The Funky Homosapien, and Masta Ace over punchy, dusty, cinematic beats that Kno seems to have reclaimed from the golden era of hip-hop. Humor plays a much bigger role throughout this series, making it easier to understand how such a highly conceptual and forward-looking group could’ve settled on the name “CunninLynguists” all those years ago. In the song “Drunk Dial”, Murs and Grieves explore the poor decisions that come with drinking, jealousy, regret, and sexting:

I hope you black out before you do anymore damage
I checked your timeline, homie…why you Tweetin’ in Spanish?
I understand if this is what you gotta go through
But when you sober up I got some screenshots to show you
And Grieves, bro…you gonna be hella happy that all of them texts didn’t go through

The interludes (which I find to be filler on most albums) are hilarious: a female robotic voice gives periodic updates on the failure of the crew to find any “empathetic and intelligent life” on planet earth, concluding instead that we have become “bigger idiots than we were before we arrived”. She comments on how she finds the mission boring, and would rather “hit the club, pop a molly, and twerk something for a real nigga”. They don’t take themselves too seriously, and that’s really refreshing in a landscape saturated with gigantic egos and pissing contests over status, fame, money etc.

Of course, there are very profound and serious moments to be found throughout the album, most notably in J-Live’s heart-felt lament over the baroque, monastic beat that backs his verse on  “Beyond The Sun” . Aesop Rock & Sadistic discuss the loneliness and meaningless of life on the track “Castles”, delving deep into the isolation and despair that comes as we build walls around us to protect against emotional injury. Through the highs and lows of this album, Kno’s production remains a constant. You will not find a boring, meaningless beat behind any verse in Strange Journey Volume 3. The man is a genius.

It’s worth noting that many of the decisions behind this album were crowdsourced. The group polled fans on Facebook, asking them who they would most like to see on the album. They shared content from the studio, soliciting feedback and involving listeners in the production of the album. For a more focused, conceptual album, this approach would undoubtedly create a cesspool of disjointed ideas. But the resulting diversity of lyrical skill, gritty humor, and general debauchery on Strange Journey Volume 3 is simply stellar.


01 | Ignition
02 | Strange Universe (ft. Del The Funky Homosapien)
03 | In The City (ft. Zumbi of Zion I)
04 | South California (ft. Tunji)
05 | Drunk Dial (ft. Murs and Grieves)
06 | The Morning (ft. Blue and Psalm One)
07 | Innerspace (ft. Toby)
08 | Miley 3000
09 | Guide You Through Shadows (ft. Substantial and RA Scion)
10 | Castles (ft. Aesop Rock and Sadistik)
11 | Kings (ft. Sheisty Khrist)
12 | The Format (ft. Masta Ace and Mr SOS)
13 | Dying Breed
14 | Makes You Wanna Cry (ft. Sheisty Khrist)
15 | Beyond The Sun (ft. J-Live)
16 | Mission Assessment
17 | Urutora Kaiju (ft. Tonedeff)

Purchase Here (Bandcamp – $7)

Max Graef – Rivers of the Red Planet

max graef-rivers of the red planet

Rivers of the Red Planet
Max Graef

Genre: Electro-Funk, Jazz, Hip-Hop
1 Minute Read

Rivers of the Red Planet is a beautifully crafted soundscape that draws heavily from all of the right sources. Jazz, hip-hop, and house influences  are prominently featured, and give the album its rhythmic pace and sultry style.

Every single song on this album contributes to the character of the work as a whole, which Graef masterfully suggests and complements with the beautiful cover artwork. He manages to evoke emotion with songs like “Running” and “Jane” while keeping you in the head-nodding groove of jams such as “Drums of Death” and “Vino Rosetto” which are irresistibly funky and infectious.

This album is an absolute gem and will undoubtedly stand the test of time. Enjoy!

01 | Intro
02 | Itzehoe
03 | Superswiss (Skit)
04 | Running (ft. Wayne Snow)
05 | Jazz 104
06 | Tamboule Fudgemunk
07 | Quackeljochen
08 | Ohne Erdung
09 | Mullholand Drive
10 | Drums Of Death (ft. Labuzinski)
11 | Vino Rosetto (Album Mix) [ft. Labuzinski]
12 | Speed Metal Jesus
13 | Büchsenöffner
14 | Jane (ft. Wayne Snow)
15 | Medley Of The Drifter
16 | Outro

Purchase Here (Boomkat – $10)

Lorn – Ask the Dust

lorn - ask the dust

Ask The Dust

Genre: Dark Electronic, Future Hip-Hop
2 Minute Read

Ask The Dust (Ninja Tune, 2012) is Lorn’s sophomore album. It is much less rigid and conventional than his first album, Nothing Else (Brainfeeder, 2010). Wiping his work clean of overt reggae and trap influences, he favors a more neutral, electronic sound this time around.

As the artwork suggests, Ask The Dust is a dark and fractured blend of sinister and murky tones, held together in a loosely coherent fashion. The percussion forms the skeleton of the album, giving the floating, experimental soundscape a much-needed backbone. It also acts as the veins of the music, pumping blood and energy into the guttural and often lazy melodies.

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