“In an age where…” is a trite and stock method by which to open any written or verbal statement or essay, laden as it is with the type of sentiment that oozes conventionality. Upon repetition it is also very
annoying. Such an opening in fact bears resemblance as a simulacrum of the current state of hip-hop. An endless conveyor belt of either chart-spurred, unskilled, creatively null men or aged, out-of-touch rappers who simply refuse
to say that their mini stint in the rap game is up. When these actors churn out obvious songs with clubbish production, the chart-huggers inevitably eat it up whole, as if something new
or even creative
has been done. In a conversation with Greydon, he made the telling point to me that for many ‘rappers’ now – one song can be, and is for most, a career. (For more information on this point, multiple examples can be drawn from one glance at the current Billboard 200, B.o.B.’s debut, built mainly on the success of the inescapably commerical Airplanes
, is sitting pretty above established artists (who have made better albums) such as The Roots and Big Boi.)
In an age where this is the case, Greydon Square is the linguistic and creative light at the end of the tunnel. Beneath the internet furrowing and browsing and searching and wasted hours spent jumping between links, or through possibly a passing reference in an internet talk show, or a YouTube video; you may already have had the privilege of coming across this multi-faceted musician and lyricist. (“Global following, barely known locally…On my way to the stage you won’t notice me/ Like an undiscovered Big Pun, that’s pretty sobering” Eddie succinctly sums up on album closer Dopamine Kata.) Conceptually, The Kardashev Scale is the third in ‘the trilogy’ which also encompasses his debut effort The Compton Effect, and his sophomore The CPT Theorem. All of these album titles, by the way, are actually part of contemporary scientific terminology. (He did write and produce an album before this, called Absolute, but this is now unavailable and was written even before he assumed the moniker of Greydon Square.) And it is a massive step up for the artist; the production is crisper, the lyrics are still relevant and permeating. The features of Gripp and Canibus are particular stand-outs (the track Speak to Him originally appeared on Gripp’s album Grass Nap). Oh, and the content; well, consistently with Greydon – his music is intellectually stimulating, “We make music for intellectuals“. The galactic, far reaching sound scapes of album opener Star View are abruptly contrasted with the thudding and militaristic War Porn (with an excellent feature by Canibus, no less), further expanded with the almost religiously intense chants and piano loop of the title track The Kardashev Scale. And this is only four songs in.
In an age where religion is very often a topic of debate, defense and ridicule; Greydon occupies a unique position in the clash. Okay okay, you’ve checked the Amazon bestseller list, you’ve got your copy of The God Delusion, decided to even branch out and give god is not Great a try – but you just can’t bring yourself to commit to reading a few hundred pages about something that from the outset appears heavy, or even boring. (This is not my position, rather, it is the position of the apathetic majority.) Greydon dismisses such myths with such ease and swagger that fans of hip-hop WILL commend this album even if said fan does not like the lyrical content. He is aware of his own position, “You loved my music until you listen to what I’m sayin’/ See, you had my attention until you said you’re gonna pray for me…Check these lyrics that you’ll get scorched with/ From Dawkins, Harris, Dennett to Hitchens/ I’m the fifth horseman!”
This album is full of allusions and samples, both at work to dispel illusions, and trample delusions. In Brains
Greydon makes what appears to be an extremely subtle nod to Biggie Smalls, extending the vowel sound on the line, “Name a faith that lets you think for yourself/ I’ll join to-mor-row/ That doesn’t have a heaven or hell/ Or promote sor-row,”
much like The Notorious B.I.G. did on the track What’s Beef?, “Y’all got the gall, all I make is one phone call/ All y’all disappear by to-mor-row/ All your guns is bor-rowed, I don’t feel sor-row.”
Canibus is the rapper who Greydon credits with making him know he wanted to pursue a career in the rap game, “You want to run with me? / Don’t get caught up with knee pain/ I’m chasing Canibus lyrics/ You chasing T-Pain.”
And at times it certainly shows. (In opening track Star View
Greydon muses, “Give me my own ship/ Let me explore the cosmos,“
which bears immediate resemblance to a line in the Canibus track Get Retarded, “You can’t even absorb the rhymes I record/ Or resolve the deep laws of the physics involved/ I travel to the end of the universe and beyond.“)
Greydon’s word-smithery is scholarly yet gritty, thought-provoking yet accessible. His self-described “lyrical kung-fu” takes full shape in two central tracks, Brains
. The two tracks follow each other on the album but are so wonderfully contrasted in their production and tone; Brains
is a hostile, contemplative, accomplished, confident all-out attack which dissects the moral and historical implications of the religious impulse, and is the obvious result of a wealth of research and reading, “Wait a second just take a second to second guess it/ What are the main lessons?/ Pain, war, oppression./ God can kill, do whatever he wants more or less and/ Forget the moral questions it presents, obey without question.”
Contrasting this is Myth.
A thought-provoking and mature track whose production is laden with an addictive string loop, and is chorused by a sample of the venerated scientist who is the reason we now use the term ‘Pale Blue Dot’ in referring to the tiny piece of rock on which we live – Carl Sagan. Greydon carries with him the baggage of Black America, and the very recent history of slavery, “I have the scars of a slave in my DNA.”
– A method he uses in part as a diatribe to the intensely religious section of Black America (an argument he laid out most harrowingly and piercingly in the track N Word
on The CPT Theorem
). Greydon’s ripostes are neither prolix nor garrulous; but are cut throat and direct, “Next victim, any faith that’s ever suppressed woman/ And skewed science and education for its best interest/..For those who died for daring to question the system/ And all the lives and power that they’ve abused since then/ The stories were myths from the instant of its invention/ That’s where their power comes from, your belief in their fiction.”
His lyrical gun is just not just pointed at Christianity though. The track Myth itself is aimed at any and all supernatural systems of belief and the title explains Greydon’s position: they are all myth, all equal glimpses of the same untruth. Stockholm Syndrome though, is more focused on the growing strength of radical Islam. The superb production (this track is produced by Greydon himself) has a piano loop which it in itself a Dr Dre throwback (more specifically, Still DRE) – the lyrics themselves do more talking than any attempted dissection of them would, “Religious freedom is an oxymoron/ None of them books scare me, not the Bible, not the Qu’ran/ This is to Islam, and its fundamentalism/ The day you release your women I’ll quit releasing venom/ Until then, no amount of scientific contribution/ Could ever excuse your hateful chauvinistic institution.” - Harbouring the ability to entangle relevant and meaningful criticisms of such an important issue is a talent in itself, but Greydon’s ability to turn this into modern, upscale, quality hip-hop is another level. And it’s a level Greydon keeps on raising.
There are broader horizons than this though. Greydon has also studied quantum physics (he has described his rapping as an attempt at a “biochemical lyrical martial arts display“), and has served in the American Army during its Iraq Invasion. With this comes an acute awareness of the politicisation of not just religion, but of the supposed contrasting ‘belief systems’ of Republicans and Democrats, “Democrat and Republican? The same party.” This is most obvious on one of the albums stand out tracks, Special Pleading. I mentioned in a previous review that Drake has the talent to be able to rap and sing the hook on his songs, and do it well. Greydon Square can do this just as well. The eerie chorus, where he charges the most vile thing that is religion does is to tell its adherents to, “Put your trust in me/ I won’t lead you wrong.” This is expanded upon with some dissection of the fractional-reserve economic system and the war-based economy, “Front line political war-fare, I done been there/ They loan money into existence, I done been there. / Capitalism means fuck you, they’re gonna get theirs/ Even if it means you die, they just sit there.” This may not be a whole new dimension of hip-hop, political rap has and does exist; but Greydon offers it with a polish and swagger not before seen.
A much more lengthy review of this album could be done. But, the message from Greydon is clear. Religion is false, a myth, holding society back and is a consistent warrant to violence and war and slavery and oppression, amongst others things. This musical diatribe though, is not angry, it is not imbued with a sort of arrogance that can make such figures unapproachable, no. Rather, Greydon is modest and really does attempt to be an objective observer, even if he will annoy and inflame people when he does this (if you don‘t piss people off when talking about such an issue though, it can be assumed you‘re doing it wrong). He has produced almost half of this album himself, with most of the other half going to producer Traumah (whom Greydon has described as the “Dre to my Eminem”), with the rest going to Doug Fenske. Most (most likely all) was recorded in Greydon’s home studio. This is one of the best hip-hop albums of the year – in terms of originality and innovation, and development of sound and style – it has continued the upward gradient (ie…Greydon) which Eddie Collins has made for himself. For fans, it is worth the wait. For new-comers, it is more than worth the fee. For the irreligious, it is essential. For the religious, I believe it will be a thought provoking and debate-starting sixty-eight minutes. And so, let the debate continue.
Lyrics – 9.5/10
Content – 9/10
Production – 9/10
Giving this album 89%