In the modern hip hop music climate, few artists take on complicated beats and intricate rap verses at the same time. Normally, a hip hop group is known either for its well-produced backing tracks or for its skilled rappers. Even less common is an underground or indie hip hop outfit which can produce interesting, intricate music that complements and supports meaningful lyrics with substance. On their second album, The RAP-Ture, the Parkers, a sibling duo also known as 832, achieve this tricky combination and much more.
Brothers Nawlege 405 and Solomis are also rare in hip hop in that they come from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma – a city not often associated with the genre. This did not stop Nawledge 405 and Solomis from soaking in all they could from 80s and 90s hip hop and rap culture. The Parkers name some of their major influences as Bone Thugs N Harmony, Outkast, the Pharcyde and Tech N9ne. The duo released an EP, Synergy, in 2011. This mini-album showed early signs of promise as the brothers began to develop their style, with nods to classic hip hop artists like KRS-one and Rakim, but it also showed a 90s underground flavor similar to Slum Village or Living Legends. After Synergy came two more EPs, Brown Bag Special and Seven Steps to Heaven. In late 2012, 832 released its first full-length album, Love and Fear.
With an already impressive body of work in the three years they have been active, 832 seems to be refining their style more and more with each release. They have also gained a cult following, and in 2013 won the Street Music Award for Best New Duo or Group. With The RAP-Ture, brothers Nawlege 405 and Solomis seem to have landed in the realm of political rap conceptually, while musically they still seem to gather influence from many sources. The talent for these two brothers lies largely in execution, song composition and, of course, integrity.
Lyrically, the Parker brothers are out to make a statement on The RAP-Ture, which was released in November 2014. They first draw audiences in with their articulate and catchy rhymes. They call themselves rhyme poets, and their style and technique is very refined, at times sounding like Living Legends or Slum Village in songs like Any Way You Can and Burn, and at others taking on even more complicated lyrical rhythms similar to E4, such as in Ghost in the Darkness or Sick the Dogs on ‘Em. Another layer comes into play with the profundity of the lyrics as the brothers describe some haunting memories, such as their childhood home, number 832, being burned to the ground, and the difficulties facing urban youth in the modern era.
The music and backing tracks on the album also seem to go along with the theme of overcoming adversity and rising from the ashes, as many songs sample sad violins and have slower, heavy beats which also seem to connote sadness. These backing tracks are very sophisticated for a group considered to be “underground.”
As the album comes toward its final tracks, This is Your World, Ragtime and Skyline, the tone takes a turn toward more upbeat and fun energy both in lyrics and in music. Ragtime almost sounds like a club track, while This is Your World may remind audiences of early 00s indie rap such as Lupe Fiasco’s Kick Push. The closing track, Skyline, featuring Tone P, is a funky, highly syncopated and downright chipper song which symbolically has the Parker brothers looking toward the future with a glimmer of hope while honoring the past and where they have come from.
With The RAP-Ture, 832 seems to have found its style both lyrically and stylistically, however it does not seem Nawlege 405 and Solomis will stop experimenting with different styles and influences any time soon. What is certain is that any future work from the duo will be well-produced and full of meaning. 832 seems to be committed to approaching hip hop not from a desire to sell records or be played in clubs, but rather to speaking the truth and creating quality sounds. The RAP-Ture can be streamed and purchased on 832’s Bandcamp site, and all of the brothers’ previous work is available for free download on their website. Both links appear below.
Review by Layla Klamt