CunninLynguists – Strange Journey Volume 3

cunninlynguists - strange journey vol 3

Strange Journey Volume Three
CunninLynguists

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.

Tracklist

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)

CunninLynguists – A Piece Of Strange

A Piece Of Strange
CunninLynguists

Genre: Hip-Hop

CunninLynguists’ producer, Kno, is the man. You will not find one boring beat on this album, and his mastery of beatsmithing is pronounced on A Piece Of Strange. These guys have gone on tour/worked with a lot of well-recognized artists (Jay-Z, PUTS, Wu-Tang, Cee-Lo, Immortal Technique) which is a little surprising, given their relative obscurity.

The production is what makes this album for me. Don’t get me wrong, Deacon and Natti have some insightful verses, but I keep coming back to CunninLynguists because of Kno’s ability to put together a great story within a beat. I would love to hear Cise Starr rap over a coule of Kno beats. That would be one hell of an album.

Tracklist
01 | Where Will You Be?
02 | Since When
03 | Nothing To Give
04 | Caved In
05 | Hourglass
06 | Beautiful Girl
07 | Inhale (Interlude)
08 | Brain Cell
09 | America Loves Gangsters (ft. Tim Means)
10 | Never Know Why (ft. Immortal Technique)
11 | The Gates (ft. Tonedeff)
12 | Damnation (Interlude)
13 | Hellfire
14 | Remember Me (Abstract/Reality)
15 | What’ll You Do?
16 | The Light (ft. Club Dub)

Buy Here (Amazon – $9)