On a high, grassy bluff a grey suited black man looks out at a flat and endless urban futurescape. A thousand identical square buildings spin out in tightly packed rings, punctuated by chunky industrial-looking towers. And at the centre, the great dome, huge and layered, possibly impenetrable, and shimmering in the spreading lens-flare light of the sunrise or perhaps with some mysterious brilliance burning within.
The scene evokes a feeling characteristic of our emerging age: dark euphoria. Dark euphoria is the sensation that we are living in an age of wonders where we can achieve any dream, but have unexpectedly found that these infinite possibilities are as likely to be be dreadful as uplifting. Though intensely beautiful, that dome could hide anything, you see, and we can intuit little about the daily lives of the futuristic city’s inhabitants from the oppressively uniform rooftops. As our enigmatic protagonist ventures forth, the best we can hope for is that somehow joy and contentment are still possible in this radically different, powerfully inevitable tomorrow.
This is the album art for Song of the Starz, the new mixtape by Los Angeles newcomer Cobe Obeah, presented by 2dopeboyz.com. This mixtape kind of came out of nowhere for me. The past couple weeks my listening time has been spent anticipating and digesting two of the biggest albums of the year, Drake’s debut Thank Me Later and Eminem’s comeback Recovery. But in the midst of that commotion this mixtape slipped onto my playlist, and I kept coming back to it, again and then again and again.
Why? It isn’t just that it is well produced and highly listenable. And it isn’t just Cobe, whose charismatic flow is both paced and urgent, his voice both confident and emotional. No, something about this album hits home the same way its science-fictional cover art does: it feels very now.
And what does “now” feel like? Now feels like the future was better in the past, but there has never been a cooler present. Now is wracked by uncertainty but shot through with determination. Now has crises that are equal parts political and spiritual. Now is a dream world populated by those who are too awake. Now is unravelling. Cobe Obeah’s lyrics are unravelling too. Cobe doesn’t tell stories or articulate clear arguments. On each track he jumps around from topic to topic and image to image too fast to follow, but always inexorably drawn forward by an unending stream of cutting rhymes and intelligent, evocative wordplay. It is attention deficit rap that requires a great deal of attention to appreciate completely, and that is what makes it so compelling and contemporary.
Cobe Obeah maniacally connects politics, philosophy, religion, family, nutrition, conspiracy, world history, the African-American experience and snippets of his autobiography, but certain sentiments do staple the album and the individual tracks together. One is an unshakeable confidence in his own ability and talent (which is considerable). The other is his belief in the ecstatic power of music. Most of his opinions are at least a little off-beat, but these two ideas ring true and are backed up by the addictive sounds that anchor the mixtape: the indistinct babbling of a Orwellian, Citizen Kane-esque demagogue, record scratched street chants, guitar riffs over church organ harmonies, soulful funk samples.
Though I’m impressed by it, I’m not sure whether I want to fully embrace Cobe’s chaotic style or hope for something more focused from him in the future. But then, I don’t know exactly how to feel about this dark euphoria world we live in, either. In all the fractal confusion, however, one thing is certain: Cobe Obeah deserves to blow up into mainstream stardom, and sooner rather than later. We need him now, to feel this madcap present even if we can’t understand it.
Cobe Obeah’s mixtape Song of the Starz is one of the best releases I’ve heard this year. Download it at http://www.2dopeboyz.com/2010/06/20/2dopeboyz-presents-cobe-obeah-song-of-the-starz-mixtape/.