Brooklyn rapper Chris Faust may have found the richest conceptual metaphor of the year. He is releasing a trilogy called Villain setting him and fellow underground rappers up as comic book villains. He explores the metaphor from an interesting perspective, never going the horrorcore direction, but maintaining that what makes hip hop and Faust himself villainous is his truthful ambition. He feels that Society would rather smother ambitious street kids and he draws this out perfectly on “H.Y.D.R.A”. “If we face it with each other, band of brothers but you gotta keep it G my n#%& if one is cut off two more will take his place” Faust is part of an army of hustlers who won’t accept not being good enough for American life.
The first part of his trilogy comes out a lean thirteen tracks with five of those being well placed comic interludes highlighted by “The Scorpions Engraving” which showcases the Red Skull from the old Captain America cartoon. It’s important to Villain that it presents three dimensions of the narrator. Which is why the first line rapped on opening track “A Villain’s Tale” is “I hope my mom’s happy/ I see her arms hurtin’ /24 hours she slaves to keep the lights working.” He starts and ends these songs and verses with a marked powerful purpose. “A Villains tale” is dialed down, humming with a soft synch pop and crackle courtesy of B. Lewis. Faust ends the song just as strikingly “I ain’t mad though…the bad guy this time around, Dr. Faust, I’ll be the asshole.” The hypothesis we work from is that villains are driven to it; they start out hoping for success and happiness never getting the proper chance for it. Hannibal King sets the beat on “Doctor Faust” with an impressive flute sample while Faust plans his takeover of the ungrateful industry and ponders life.
Villain is not a lot of things. It’s not experimental, the beats have warmth that is nurtured by expert instrumental sampling and somehow it’s completely cohesive despite eight songs produced by eight different people. It is also not very shocking, he has lines that sneak up on you like “I love who you are love you ain’t…your so Anne Frank let’s skip the city and hide out for like six weeks…” which opens “Sharon Carter” but those are exceptions. You won’t be calling your friends to tell them Faust is the truth. He understands this and opens “Inception” with “I don’t really have powers, just the power of persuasion I guess.” On “Inception”, Oddisee winds the strength of a sharp drum kick, on a deceptively intricate beat, around a well performed R&B chorus from Mike Maven. Faust is always a mixture of humble and impossibly driven in the classical NY thoughtful mold. It is not the most shocking template but it’s also not flawed.
After many listens I haven’t found anything I would change, the features are fantastic. Quest and ScienZe completely get the concept on “American Villain”. Dremur delivers on “H.Y.D.R.A” and even the R&B chorus’s work. It’s not a project that will blow your mind, but it’s one you can listen too over and over. Don’t trick yourself into thinking it brings you back to the 90’s. It’s a very emotionally now set of songs, they just feel like their part of some other era, better one. You can listen without skipping forward or begrudging sore thumb tracks. The key to concept albums is never to abide too strictly to them. If “Curing the Dark Phoenix” was an X-Men song it would have failed, but as a metaphor for dealing with women its spot on. He gives himself enough room to develop the comparison that guides himself and the concept at the same time. You have to give Chris Faust a lot of credit for authorship on Villain. He put out a comic book related mixtape that’s not mired in hip references and doesn’t require functioning nerd knowledge, but doesn’t disappoint if you come to it with that understanding.
Dan – O
You can download Villain at the link below