Humble - Sin Permiso

Photo courtesy of  Rico James .

Photo courtesy of Rico James.

Humble is a real deal farmer and mountain man, so when he drops something new, it is always a surprise. His latest transmission is Sin Permiso, a seven song set of, well, classic Humble. This is dense lyricism, delivered at an almost deadpan pace, over some ethereal, spaced-out boom bap. Dude has his formula down.

That formula is still recorded at home, but Sin Permiso sounds better than his last project with Old Gold, and more like his 2017 album Premonition, which balanced the demo grit with cleaner mixes. I had Premonition on my best-of list of 2017, but 2018’s Humble x Old Gold was up against heavy competition during a breakout year for the Vermont hip hop scene. Humble doesn’t care about any of that.

Rap kids today have probably never heard Living Legends, a West Coast indie crew who built a global rep slanging cassette tapes out of their backpacks. (Really.) They’ve always been central to my understanding of Humble’s work -- he’s like a Rasta version of The Grouch, but with far better writing. Remember, I’m not saying these cats were an influence on Humble, and in fact, he’s way more true school than “indie rapper.”

So for casual listeners, opening track “Forge” is the crucible where you decide whether or not this whole aesthetic is for you. It’s definitely the slowest track here -- he launches into double-time bars a track later on “Akhenaten” -- but his sly wordplay and recursive writing style are in full effect.

“Hypatia” is a reprise of Humble’s best bars, especially “I am America.” It’s a detailed and blazingly fast meditation on the divine feminine. It’s also Humble flossing his knowledge of history -- you’ve gotta be an educated monkey to catch this one. He follows that up with “Peas,” a goofy, funky tribute to good food. (And Annie’s Mac and Cheese.)

“Face It” is about a dozen songs at once, but it’s fundamentally an invitation to co-create reality. This cut is Humble at his very best, weaving references and puns and mixing metaphors to potent effect. And if you’re high? Buddy, put that shit on repeat until you can catch all the nuances here.

Sin Permiso wraps with the left-right combo of “Never Confined” and “Beacon.” Both are earnest, hopeful tracks over huge, ambient beats. I cannot help but take them as a two-part manifesto, covering Humble’s green anarchist aesthetic and his recognition that withdrawing from Babylon is not nearly enough to actually fight against it.

I’m into it. This was a good dose. It’s great to see a gifted writer still questioning himself, even when he is at his most comfortable with the pen. It’s also great simply to see new material from Humble, one of the most Vermont talents in Vermont. Recommended for old fans and new listeners alike.

Justin Boland