Darc Mind: Symptomatic of a Greater Ill

Darc Mind's Symptomatic Of A Greater Ill is certainly worlds apart from Anticon's standard hip-hop fare but that's hardly the disc's most provocative quality. What's truly mind-boggling is that the album was created in the mid-‘90s and then shelved in its entirety, and is only now seeing the light of day thanks to Anticon. What happened? Darc Mind, a Long Island-based hip-hop outfit comprised of MC Kevroc and producer GM Webb D (aka X-Ray), recorded the debut album between '95 and '97 for Loud/RCA but the label collapsed months before the scheduled '98 release, leaving the album in limbo for nearly a decade.

Yes, it's of its time but a great album nonetheless. Darc Mind's sound pivots on two major elements: Kevroc's tongue-twisting rhymes, deftly delivered in a rumbling yet melodious and agile baritone, and Webb D's slippery boom-bap, minimal funk, and smoked horn, bass, and piano samples. Put the two together and what comes out is spooky, cinematic, surreal, and ominous. Kevroc drawls rhymes in “Visions Of A Blur” with effortless dexterity, densely squeezing in as many syllables as possible. Here and elsewhere, the album's dizzying vocal dimension mesmerizes all by itself, with the MC's growling flow riding the loping rhythms like a jazz soloist. And whether dropping a cartoonish squawk into “Fever Pitch” or a lethal guitar figure into “Visions Of A Blur,” GM Webb D shows himself to be the perfect complement to Kevroc with grooves that are at times sparse and other times densely layered in that classic Fear of a Black Planet style (“BMOC”). “I'm Ill ” includes a particularly sick backing, especially when the biting snare snaps alongside a hazy swirl of horns and simmering crackle. Let's not lose our heads: Symptomatic Of A Greater Ill isn't genre-defying per se and it likely wouldn't have sounded so in 1998 either. Yet the disc is so consistently arresting, one can't help but think it might have altered the direction of hip-hop's development to some small degree at least.

November 2006