THE WAY OF THE WARRIOR
An album by Hidden
Review presented by Ilu Ha’El
Listen to “The Way of the Warrior” by Hidden
It was only a couple weeks ago when Hidden and I first spoke about having an album review. Originally he had selected a different album to have reviewed, but then decided to go with a breakdown of his most recent release, The Way of the Warrior.
Then, during this past week, an articulate and intellectual gentleman by the name of Ilu Ha’El expressed his interest in joining our staff at The Write Reviews. After a fairly lengthy conversation, I decided to give Ilu Ha’El an album to review to see how well he would breakdown a project. The result is what follow-up a review of Hidden’s The Way of the Warrior
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1- The Warrior
Hidden wastes no time setting the tone of this project on its opening track, “The Warrior”. Clocking in at a short and to the point, 2 minutes and 11 seconds, “The Warrior” is a barrage of metaphorical bars that paint the scene… Hip-Hop as the battlefield, the Emcee as the Samurai Warrior, and sharp lyricism serving as the Bushido blade. While the production on this one may miss its mark with more mainstream listeners, I feel like it nears perfection when coupled with not only Hidden’s voice, but his line-for-line (almost ad-libesque) delivery. Packed with patches of brutal quotes and a direct vision, “The Warrior” is a rather befitting intro. This is Hidden’s ‘Tao’, beckoning those tired of the monotony found all over the radio these days, to walk his way…
2- Blood of The Samurai feat. Lucifer’s Apostles
On the project’s second track, Hidden teams up with the 3 man collective, Lucifer’s Apostles (Rez, M-Acculate, and Uncle Bungle), to deliver “Blood of the Samurai”. This is a posse cut, pure and simple. Over a dark, piano-driven instrumental, Hidden and his cohorts create a 4 corner square-dance of death. Lyrically, this track suffers from oversaturation in the form of directionless ‘Horrorcore’ rhymes. Not to say that the heat is missing, but ALL 3 members of the ‘Apostles’ (and Hidden, here) use the exact same style. Paired with their heavy accents and some sketchy mixing spots, I found it a little difficult to differentiate between the Retford rhyme-slingers. Adding a whammy on what otherwise may have been a solid offering, Hidden sounds comfortable here, but he’s definitely upstaged a bit. After the ears adjust a little, it’s clear that The ‘Apostles’ bring the replay value to this hookless delight.
3- The Way
By the album’s 3rd track, entitled “The Way”, the monotony begins to set in and becomes rather noticeable. While up to this point it offers the project’s best production by Hidden (he produced every track), it also finds its protagonist unable to match the intensity of the bass and sample that make this beat come alive. Another problem found here is that once again, Hidden gives a hookless and short offering [2m 17s]. Sans a chorus, the listener doesn’t get a break from Hidden’s metaphors… Yes, metaphors are a true lyricist’s staple, but so are similes. Without the ‘like’ and ‘as’ comparisons, a lot of what is spat translates as disconnected randomness. Chocked full of self hype bars and cliché “fuck the mainstream” braggadocio, this one misses its intended mark and finds it in the pantheon of so many failed underground songs (though this feels like it should’ve been a later introduced interlude), where emcees berate industry counterparts and all of their materialism, misogyny, and mediocrity; yet offer nothing great to contrast it.
Seppuku is the ritualistic suicide by disembowelment (preserved for the Samurai), enabling one to die with honor rather than by the hands of the enemy… On the album’s 4th offering, “Seppuku”, Hidden perfectly translates this definition into rap form. Unfortunately, this becomes a double-edged sword when unsheathed here. Unlike the 3 preceding tracks, the only vehicle used on this one is the metaphor. As I noted in my reviewing of “The Way”; it’s a lack of useful similes that turns what is good writing (albeit lackluster production and his laziest delivery) into what could be perceived as horrorcore gory randomness. While this song bears the project’s first official hook, it’s marred by the fact that it is no more than a rhymed definition of the Japanese word. It connects the verses and has weight only if by the time you find yourself listening to it, you’ve already come to an understanding of what The Way Of The Warrior is supposed to be. If not, this is an easily skipped track.
5- Hachiman feat. Mr B and M-Acculate
On The Way…‘s 2nd feature cut, “Hachiman”, Hidden enlists the help of Mr B and Lucifer’s Apostles’ own, M-Acculate. Sadly, this is one of Hidden’s dimmer moments, as I instantly recognized some recycling from the album’s opener. But it’s more than just reused verbiage that dampen this gritty, Oriental infused bull cypher. The hook which consists of Hidden redundantly chanting “Hachiman/ I am God to the Senji [sic]”, doesn’t get the listener as hype as he sounds when performing it. Like “Seppuku”, this chorus is pretty much a definition of who Hachiman is rather than how it connects to Hidden’s project. His delivery here too suffers from the laziness displayed on “The Way”. As for the rest of the track, I feel like the only downside would be that some listeners aren’t going to give the heavy accented M-Acculate and Mr B a fair shake, either for already having skipped this song, or the inability to instantly grasp their verses. A shame because it’s in the two featured emcees 16s that we are clearly reminded that this about Rap/Hip-Hop, and not really a Samurai’s battlefield. Aside from an awkward start when Mr B enters the beat, he and M-Acculate own this with their raw form and hungry deliveries.
6- Death of the Shogun feat. Mr B and M-Acculate
In my opinion this is the album’s lowest and most unfocused point, period. Another hookless feature track, “Death of the Shogun” again pairs Hidden with Mr B and M-Acculate. The Shinto style plucking in the beat’s background and the title are the only things that connect this to the body of work being presented. Marred by cluttered rhymes that jump all over the board in subject matter, from zygotes to twitching nipples (no bullshit), Shogun’s only highlight comes way of Mr B’s doubled ad libbed entrance and the flow that succeeds it. A sub par mix down of M-Acculate’s borderline sloppy verse instantly cancel that out. This isn’t even the hard to catch, metaphor laced banter that is so prevalent throughout the former tracks. Quite frankly, if not skipped, it makes Warrior’s former hot spots lose a bit of creative validity. My least favorite of the bunch by far.
7- Sages feat. Fubar
Clocking in at only 1 minute and 53 seconds, track #7, entitled “Sages”, marks not only the shortest offering of the whole tape, but also its best feature song. While elsewhere, the lack of a hook is somewhat a source of complaint, here it feels justified. Hidden returns with the energy and consistent flow that made the album’s intro cut, “The Warrior” so warlike and metaphorically dope. Alonside on this one is Synesthesia Records’ MC, Fubar, who masterfully displays ability to be both lyrical and witty (Toasty!! Ad libs were fire) . Despite 2 solid verses here, this has a bittersweetness to it in that by the time some reach this gem, you almost feel as if you’ve heard it all before.
This plays out like the naked soul of Hidden. Personal, honest, reflective, compassionate, and regretful, yet wise… I could go on and on about “Slip”, the 8th and most cohesive cut of them all. Here, Hidden crafts a beautifully written hook about the meaning of life, bringing the listener for the first time into his mind’s process. Lines like: “I turned my back upon a lot/ but I never ran/ I simply walked away before I got shot…” pepper every verse here. This is his imperfect perfection (he literally uses assonance near-rhyme patterns, and extremely well). Rife with crafty wordplay: “You see I never gave a fuck/ it’s like no one ever gave me enough”. This is the Samurai after the armor is removed, the outside war wanes, and the hardest battle begins… The one against one’s self and the perceived “clock of life”. But fear not! Those who wouldn’t dare take up a Warrior’s garments, needn’t… Hidden clearly shows that he’s walked into the dark of battle and returned, scathed and all the more refined (perhaps even civilized) because of it. The price? A great one in that self-built illusions and conditions had to be destroyed. The reward? Far greater… A realization that we must fearlessly live to truly cherish the gift of life, or be doomed to see it as the ultimate reality once it becomes too late to act upon.
9- Wild Arms
Closing out The Way Of The Warrior is “Wild Arms”… On this final track we get a sample of Hidden’s storytelling ability. “Wild Arms” is the tale of a boy (later joined by 2 companions) who becomes an unlikely warrior, the day that metal beasts from the sky descend to destroy the earth. I won’t pussyfoot around with this one. There’s no problem with the song in all honesty, save that it noticeably has guns and monsters, which have nothing in common with the running theme of the album… The delivery from “The Warrior” is back in use, which I’ve noted is a good thing when Hidden harnesses it correctly. The story is consistent, well developed, has its 3 sections; but again, no hook to break the monotony. Some listeners may feel that after a cut like “Slip”, that this add on is unnecessary, but not me. Hidden is a man of metaphors, and if I’m hearing it the right way, “Wild Arms” is really the story of himself and his HiddenRoad Studios crew’s journey to preserve the craft against all odds: “moral of the story: true warriors thrive on sacrifice”.
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The Warrior, Sages, and Slip
THE WRITE UP
I didn’t know what to expect when I was first handed the task of reviewing Hidden: The Way Of The Warrior. The cover art was simply stunning, but gave no hints at what could be expected. So, with my eyes blinded and my mind open, I clicked the play button. No fear of the unknown, but a void waiting to have the vision displayed in whatever degree of brilliance it was presented in….
First and foremost, what I’ll say is that I instantly smiled when I realized that this is above all else a concept driven project. That’s super dope to see on an underground level, because more often than not this genre is flooded with either self-promoting braggadocio or the metaphysical preachy shit. At times The Way Of The Warrior is the former, but never the latter, and that in itself deserves a bit of praise.
Production on this project was all manned by Hidden, himself. For the most part this was no problem, as the string and backing percussion remained sonically meshed throughout the entity of the 9 track EP. An issue I did find with this tape only having one beatmaker is that there is a redundancy in the drum and bass patterns. This gives the effect of feeling like some of the songs run together. Not saying that you can’t differentiate them when you’re focused in, but a natural audio illusion definitely occurs, and it can stale a bit. This becomes a bit more problematic when you factor in that this whole EP contains a total of 8 verses not Hidden’s in the form of features (M-Acculate and Mr B appear several times), yet only 3 choruses course its entire body. Hidden doesn’t seem to have his biggest strength the area of composing hooks, but he’s not devoid of the ability either as he has an out-the-park moment on “Slip”. My only advice there is that practice makes for better offerings, but after hearing “The Way”, I’m not so sure that he cares to be confined to the imaginary but unwritten rules of rap…Hell, he says it flat out. When it comes to selecting his featured acts, I kinda feel like he should take his time more. In my opinion, he’s upstaged on every song with feature, be it getting out barred or out flowed. The rating of this project could easily vary from shitty to gritty greatness, depending on the ears…. Well, not really. You see, the strength of this projects projection lies almost solely on the listeners ability to grasp the intro track, “The Warrior”. If the metaphors (because it’s his main vehicle of choice) are missed here, the fat of this tape could easily go unnoticed by the common listener. Also, Hidden has to work on subject matter. While I absolutely love the fact that he went for a running theme, it bores after being done over and over without giving a different facet of his idea. That flaw added to the awesomeness of “Slip”, which marks the only time TWOTW isn’t about warrior style lyricism and defeating enemies in the field. It’s here that I found my basis for rating at… I’m sold on the sharpness of Hidden’s blade, but not so much on its direction. Not all the way bad, but direction is key when one is trying to show any type “way”. Without it, we’re only left with a skilled swordsman swinging blindly, exerting energy, hoping to kill strike each thrust. Deadly when it lands, but all too easily evaded.
Pros include- concept driven, instrumentation, metaphors, assonance near rhyme patterns, and feature selection. Cons include- lack of focus, redundant drum patterns, lack of similes, lacks effective hooks, and narrow vocabulary.
(2 out of 5 stars)
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