"ILLiterature" - Mind's Eye Tribe
There were a few delays prior to the release of this latest project from Mind's Eye Tribe, but it's easy to see why: this "EP" grew into a whole damn album. MET is a mostly 802 crew of spitters, in the vein of Demigodz or Army of the Pharaohs, mostly orchestrated by JynxINC emcee / prouducer Eyedos. The other core members are Stresselbee of Epidemiks, Trono of Self Portrait, Ademus, iMHi, J-Zila, RuffNek and Trips. Finally, Brattleboro artist Capa 3 rounds out the lineup in a big way -- in addition to spitting, he produced the opening and closing cuts (as DJ Hakal) and even did the cover art (as Zeke Parker. Nice work, Zeke.) ILLiterature is their second project, hot on the heels of their 2017 debut.
Just like their first album, ILLiterature makes it clear that MET is way more than "that crew Eyedos has." Sure, he's both prolific and gifted, but he's also playing a supporting role here. Almost everyone in the posse is a multi-talented operator with experience in the game, and it shows.
Everything kicks off like it should: with an atmospheric intro cut setting the tone, a banging crew anthem laying out the manifesto, and then a monster of a posse cut -- "MET Cypher" is a serious piece of work. It kicks off with a burner of a sixteen from Sa-Roc, one of the best recent additions to the Rhymesayers roster. The track is a 1:1 map of the whole MET business plan -- they're aiming squarely for underground legitimacy, for the recognition of the rappers they respect.
With a crew as big and diverse as Mind's Eye Tribe, that pantheon spans pretty damn far, obviously. But the aesthetic is always raw skills over industry "success." The other big feature on this LP is Swollen Members legend Madchild, one of Canada's most truly unhinged exports in recent decades. He's also a shrewd artist-capitalist who understood how to build a movement since the start of his career. Madchild has a global network, Battle Axe Warriors, which often gets written about as a "fan club" -- but any artist reading this should take a half hour to get familiar. "It does't matter if you guys don't get it," he says on track six, "what matters is that I do, and where this is headed."
Throughout the LP, the MET crew spits a lot of (hilarious) venom about The Industry -- the fake stars, the shitty music, the hidden agendas -- but this is also a pragmatic stance. "Blowing up" is like winning the lottery, a one-time achievement that's not sustainable. What MET is looking to do is build a real fanbase and own that shit. That might be small business, compared to whatever DJ Khaled and G-Eazy are hustling this fiscal quarter, but it's also a business that lasts. They will never have to chase trends, get sponsors, or answer to anyone but themselves.
...which is good, since they're hardcore boom bap purists who do eight minute tracks. ILLiterature is an utterly uncompromising album. Whether that's too much or fucking awesome will depend on your taste as a listener, but there is definitely a huge, devoted and global audience out there for this kind of rap. Quite a few of them are right here in Vermont. This is a soundtrack for backwoods burn turns, bonfires populated by heavy drinkers, house parties that end in fights. Or, you know, getting pumped at the gym or something.
MET have left fans and new listeners with a lot to unpack here, but for those who can't get enough, there is new solo material on the way this year from Ademus, Stresselbee, and Eyedos. Meanwhile, keep ILLiterature in rotation.