On Crimewave’s Latest, Death Metal and Hip-Hop Join in an Awkward Marriage

The Tacoma artist’s ‘Cage W/Mirrored Bars’ EP attempts to innovate, but lands in a noisy jumble.

Tacoma has been producing a steady stream of moshy hip-hop, with artists like BBE’s Ghoulavelii and Yung Fern dropping death-metal-inspired trap records. Fellow Tacomans Crimewave and Prison Religion’s False Prpht and Poozy joined forces on a new record, Caged W/Mirrored Bars, that attempts to take this dark trap sound to another level. Rather than simply drawing inspiration from death metal, the experimental EP tries to more literally fuse metal and hip-hop by combining bass-laden gothic synth instrumentals with distorted screaming vocals.

While it’s understandable why the decision was made to go for the extreme vocals, the actual execution falls short. The tracks sound like the artists shouted their verses, then digitally altered the vocals to level them with the instrumentals, resulting in a garbled sound that may have been intentional but which renders them extremely hard to understand. The effort to create an authentic death-metal sound ultimately results in a soup of undecipherable lyrics that pure hip-hop-heads likely won’t appreciate. “GLASS,” for example, clouds a minimal drum beat with screeching chants containing multiple “fuck niggas” and “triple sixes” among a slew of muddied howls. The track quickly descends into a jumble.

While picking through the lyrics is a daunting task, the instrumentals are a bright spot on the record. Sonically, the EP holds its own with bass-heavy boom-bap beats hiding behind a mask of eerie synths. “ONSIGHT” exemplifies Poozy’s talent as a producer—an airy beat comprising a strong bass line complemented by spooky keys with well-timed stoppages that allow the track to breathe while the artists shriek grainy a cappella bars.

Stylistically, Caged W/Mirrored Bars has similarities to Ghoulavelii’s Sleazy Season. The tracks on this project are relatively short for hip-hop, with most hovering around two minutes. These short, punchy tracks are aimed at high-energy performances, and the vocal chants throughout encourage crowds to sing along. “BORN 2 DIE” is a 38-second buildup to 30 seconds of lyrical mayhem. Its first half features a liturgy of the phrase “I don’t need my life because I know I’m going to die” followed by repeated incantations of “Born to die!” The 1´05˝ track plays like a guaranteed neck-breaker.

Caged W/Mirrored Bars is a science project of a record experimenting with a chemical fusion of two distinct genres. The result may work for its niche target audience, but will likely go over the heads of more traditional hip-hop enthusiasts, many of whom are still embroiled in heated debates over the merits of mumble rap. crimewave420.bandcamp.com

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