I got my first dose of Young Fathers after I bought a t-shirt from the Anticon Record Label’s online store. To promote them, Anticon slipped a copy of Tape Two with every shipped order, resulting in widespread dissemination of the new band’s developing sound. Luckily, I was one of the many to receive Tape Two and, as soon as the chorus of “I Heard” poured out through my speakers, I was hooked, absorbed, and captivated by their dark atmospherics. Needless to say, what follows here is an enthusiastic review of an even more ardent rap trio.
Over the years, Young Fathers have undergone a drastic shift in tone. The group, comprised of Alloysious Massaquoi, Kayus Bankole, and G. Hastings, first began producing beats in their mid-teens, eventually performing for nightclubs and other venues. Their first, lesser known release, Inconceivable Child… Conceived (2008), on Black Sugar Records, featured songs like “Straight Back On It,” playful, sample-heavy sounds designed for dancing, bursting with an aura something like that of the Beastie Boys. Ultimately, Young Fathers moved away from their hip-hop boy-band beginnings, releasing in 2011 Tape One, a bass and percussion-heavy sonic shadow. The mixtape showcased tracks like “Deadline,” a noisy stream of silken thunder, and “Romance,” a layered and laid-back taste of sublimity. Per usual, the mass populous craved more Young Fathers, and they collaborated once again with Anticon to produce Tape Two, a watershed moment for the band’s journey into an unfolding dusk.
With the inception of Tape Two, released in 2013, Young Fathers brought with them a masterful maturation of their lo-fi style. Minimalistic sounds like those fashioned on “Come To Life,” act as a vehicle for the group’s dynamic array of voices, and “Queen Is Dead,” an aggressive track (banned by the BBC in case the Queen actually, as it were, kicked the bucket) marks itself as perfect for blowing out the speakers of your most precious Brixton briefcase. And, of course, “I Heard,” arguably one of the most emotional tracks on the album, reigns ominously alongside the rest of the songs on Tape Two. Thus, Tape One set the precedent for Tape Two, and these EPs launched Young Fathers into Anticon’s studio yet again to hone in on the alternative beats produced on their most recent release, Dead.
2014’s Dead, their debut studio album, incorporates a multiplicity of genres, ranging from afro-futurism, punk, and ambient to electronic, hip-hop, and post-rock. Songs like “No Way,” “Low,” and “Get Up” each define Young Fathers’ sound, while also subvert the previously traversed aural territory the trio explored on Tape One and Tape Two. So, the question arises: how does Young Fathers celebrate such an impressively successful early career? Well, by touring throughout North America with Anticon’s own Baths alongside producer and music-maker P. Morris.
After resolving some technological hiccups at the ticket window, I showed up a quarter of the way through P. Morris’ DJ set. He began the evening with a solid set of tracks from his conveniently titled, first release mixtape, Debut, replicating them live on a turntable and drum machine for the audience growing in Neumos. Incorporating odd sound effects, synthesizers, and boisterous samples, P. Morris’ performance proved to be a representative display of a Kansas-hailing, LA based producer’s current musical strivings. P. Morris’ hard work paid off as the crowd moved with his music, unofficially signifying his outright accomplishment.
Young Fathers’ impressively spirited and aggressive set plunged their fans into excited conversation, and rendered those who were unfamiliar with the band speechless, their mouths agape as soon as the group took to the stage. On stage, each of the band’s members craft their own distinct presence: Massaquoi’s a massively-proportioned man with grieving eyes, and his accompanying grey-green trench-coat only served to make him appear as if draped in an enormous patch of the midnight sky. Bankole’s bellicose demeanor dominated most of the set, and he juked back and forth like something possessed while rapping, simultaneously getting “up-close and personal” with the entirety of the front row. Throughout the night, he busted out some low-reaching, almost-violent, dance-moves, too, eventually standing on top the speakers and mounting himself there for some time, rapping. Hair clipped neatly into a hip high-and-tight, beat-maker G. Hastings, on the other hand, seemed in control of the anarchy, reeling in Massaquoi and Bankole to throw down center stage as he saw fit. Over the course of the set, notable moments included: hearing Massaquoi hit the high-note in “Low,” watching their on-tour drummer align himself with the band’s energy, feeling the power of the bass on “Queen Is Dead” actually dislodged my recent filling, and Bankole’s addition of a traditional African instrument, the Shekere. Ending as stoically as they began, Young Fathers closed their magnificent performance with, “I Heard,” and, upon finishing their famous track, let the song trail lazily into a buzzing flood of discordant noise, a torrential outpouring of sound almost too loud for Neumos’ speakers. They stormed off stage, and I grabbed a drink, hoping the liquor would help me comprehend the utter chaos I had just experienced.
Baths, like their evening’s predecessors, gave an equally strong performance, showing up with an additional artist, and ending the night of musical ferocity with his widely-appreciated, emotion-provoking, and radio static-sampling track “No Eyes” from his sophomore LP, Obsidian.