Since the release of their Manifesto EP in April, local hip-hop collective WAKE have been forced to contend with the departure of Obeah from their ranks after the rapper moved to Denver to focus on his solo career and his work with Daily Bread. Although the split was amicable, the loss left the group without one of their fiercest, most accomplished voices and some lingering questions as to how they would proceed into the future. Would WAKE take time to regroup or forge on predominantly as a three-piece?
In answer to that question, enter DYVER. The rapper and producer has collaborated with members of WAKE in the past and has displayed the kind of speculative tendencies in his music that would seem to sit well with the group’s devil-may-care experimentation. Although it’s not entirely clear what his role will be or how much he’ll be asked to contribute, the collective’s first effort with the new lineup carves out ample space for DYVER to let loose a barrage of fierce and heated bars examining the dire conditions of American politics and culture. At first listen, his approach seems to be more direct and combustive than Obeah’s calculated internal rhyme schemes, but whether that assessment holds firm over time remains to be seen.
As for its production, “White Eyes” continues the group’s shift into more abstract territory with psychedelic bursts of noise and deftly off-balance beats that never allow the listener to settle comfortably into a head-nodding groove. The backdrop for Keith William’s opening verse is airy and minimal, employing his steely flow as a kind of anchor to keep the track from misting away into the ether. But even this high up in the stratosphere WAKE’s music remains grounded in violent history and ugly truths, and even though the players may change, the mission — to challenge, to teach, to confront — remains the same.
“White Eyes” is available for download now for $1 via Bandcamp. All proceeds will go to the Southern Anti-Racism Network.
WAKE will perform on Mon., September 18 at 529 alongside Moodie Black, No Eyes, and Okinawa 88. Doors open at 9 p.m. Admission is $7. 21+ to enter.