With just a single EP under their belt (2013’s Seeds), it’s difficult to forecast what to expect when experimental hip-hop trio WAKE drop their first full length, Strangers in a Strange Land, on September 4. Inspired by the Robert A. Heinlein novel of the same name, the record is said to follow a loose concept that will most certainly tackle issues of alienation and insecurity. However, according to producer and rapper Keith William, although social issues definitely work their way into the lyrics, it won’t be an overtly political album. Rather, it’s one that focuses on abstract explorations of everyday human experiences like love, loss, and self-doubt. William elaborates: “It’s really just the idea of coming to earth and being bombarded with all of this materialism and hate and the journey that me and Adam (Venable, the given name of WAKE member Obeah) take overcoming that and finding some sort of balance.”
From a production standpoint, the group will continue with their psychedelic and noisy left-field excursions while giving the occasional nod to pioneering influences like the Bomb Squad. There’s a concept at play here as well, one where WAKE seeks to pay homage to varying incarnations of hip-hop experimentation. As William explains, “…the songs at the start of the record are basically drum breaks from records and simple loops and as it progresses the experimentation simply becomes more complex and live synth is added, and so on.”
You can hear some of that dichotomy — so-called “golden era” stylings merged with more probing modern production — on the band’s first single, “We Are Kings Eternal,” which we’re proud to be premiering for you today. On the surface, it’s one of WAKE’s most straightforward cuts, a breezy summer head-nodder with a soulful hook. But dig deeper (or better yet, throw on a pair of good headphones) and you’ll find a sound that is far more diverse and complex. In many ways, it’s a mix — the heady combined with the infectious — that WAKE have been promising since their inception, and here they deliver in spades. Listen below.