Better or worse, here's what I'm thinking about listening through Grxzz's Commander of the Beast Realm: we start off on solid ground--still in the realm of human beings walking around on two legs not four--with the one-two banger smack of "Beast Realm Intro" and "Lionhearts" and the warning that Grxzz is about to "commit atrocities in this soundbooth." Soon enough the clouds roll in and fog up our visuals with only the occasionally skittering trap hat in there to slice up the dark and only Grxzz to drag us along. We may strictly speaking and objectively still in that soundbooth with Grxzz, but really we're Elsewhere with a capital "E." With each track on Commander of the Beast Realm it feels like we're getting deeper into something, closer to some center.
Listen to Commander of the Beast Realm via the embedded player above.
You look at that track list with different producers all over it and it might scream to you, generously, "diverse!" or, less generously, "disjointed!" but it turns out neither is true--Commander of the Beast Realm feels like it's stretched taut throughout. Strong showings in particular from thrupence on "Leaves" and Bones of Ghosts on "The Countess," but really it's all deep and heavy. It feels a little off-kilter to kick off a review on something as comparatively banal as sequencing, but here it's so, so clutch and emblematic that I'll hope you can forgive me. Commander of the Beast Realm flows all cleanly journey-like because Grxzz is, yeah, commanding, controlling the path of the whole thing with an enviable precision.
I want to situate a lot of this on Grxzz's voice and rhyming. He can pull off busyness and density in a way that makes it sound like he's, after all these years, no longer even slightly impressed with his own giant lungs. Lines stretch out forever and ever in straight beams of hot light. Steady even and smooth like on the first half of "Most Hated." Compare it with Quail, who presents as well with a strong verse on the track, but who sort of bounces in and out of his lines in way that jostles nicely against Grxzz's perpetual smoothness.
Listen to an assortment of Grxzz's tracks from the MFT archive in the player above.
It's not just that, though. Grxzz also knows his way around a melody, and I don't just mean in the catchy-as-hell hooks on a track like "Silly Mortals." Take "BRNDMS" which is built up around a sing/rap lead vocal, occasionally drifting farther one direction or the other, but never fully landing. It's a lovely bit of suspension on Grxzz's part, and it's something he's able to recreate in countless ways across Commander of the Beast Realm.
Look, the line "Indiana hip-hop is literally killing the game" is, itself, dead as a doornail right now in the face of overwhelming evidentiary support and as a result of jokers like me repeating it ad infinitum. So, set aside that turn inward and let's instead say this: Grxzz's Commander of the Beast Realm is a great release form a local hip-hop voice who I can only imagine is just getting started. It's technically impressive; it's catchy; it's chill; it's the start of a party; it's a lot of things all at once and it's well worth your time. Believe.
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