It’s a safe bet that if you dug the Boston underground hip-hop lot who came through in the late nineties/ early 2000s – (I’m thinking – 7L & Esoteric, Edan, Mr Lif, Dagha), you’ll dig Boston MC/ producer Will C – even if he is now based in Colorado. In fact, if you enjoyed any underground hip-hop of the late nineties and the early 2000s – it’s a pretty safe bet you’ll dig Will C’s fourth full-length release, Eli’s Prism.
Loosely speaking Eli’s Prism is a concept album. It squeezes everything it has to say into 13 tracks and a modest thirty eight minutes though, so it’s far from some flabby slab of pretension. The Eli of the title is our man’s brother – we’ll call him Eli C – who broadened a young Will’s mind and got him into ‘everything’ back in the day – so, on one level, it is a tribute to Eli. More broadly however, it is Will’s sonic tribute to the ‘everything’ that Eli got our Will ‘into’ which seems to be represented on the album by a sense of pre-digital Americana in its old school production values, and use of audio snippets and loops culled from old 16mm film – even if twenty-five year old Will is too young to remember a properly pre-digital U.S.A. Thematically it explores nothing more or less than the fact that quite a lot of modern life is rubbish – the jobs, the music and frankly the fucking pressure. In short it’s a protest against an increasingly ephemeral, disposable and digital world.
Will’s protest itself takes the form of rapid fire raps lyrically vacillating between despair (opener I Ain’t Making It), disgust (Pressure) and optimism – Gates Of Time. Musically we’re presented with beats that veer between uptempo boom-bap and old school electro and rich layers of audio sound collage stitched together from obscure audio bites the most recent of which sound like they come from no later than the early eighties and most from before that. He’s brought along some heavyweight friends too: indie dj producers 7L and Raydar Ellis, indie rappers Raheem Jamal, Esoteric, plus, it seems, Frank Zappa/ Beach Boys sound engineer Stephen Desper has been lurking in the background with advice during the album’s creation. This might explain the tripped-out feel of the LP which despite its brevity still manages to squeeze unconventionally long instrumental intros and outros on a number of tracks as well as instrumental Evoluon. Which is dominated by samples from some ancient education film about frogs. Which has got something to do with the cover featuring the frog-head mask that apparently kick-started the whole project. No, I’m not clear either but I’d lay money on it that Eli’s at the bottom of it.
Will C’s own advice is that you, “Make it impossible for everybody in your life to track you down, if only for thirty-five minutes…Find a good pair of headphones and a dark room…That’s how I would recommend experiencing Eli’s Prism.” As C says on Stadium Fights, “Blacastan never made a wack jam/ And that’s just fine with me” – the focus here is the maxim that if a job’s worth doing, it’s worth doing properly. None of this half-assed newfangled shit. Looked at another way, Eli’s Prism is a tribute to things analogue and things designed-to-last, to the stuff that is dusty-and-yellowed-but-still-here because it belongs to the last era when stuff was created to endure. Comforting but solid in other words. A bit like if your dad was a trucker.
(Out now on Double You Productions )