Do you want to hear something that sounds old-school without your friends calling you grandpa? Get new friends and look no further. “Ears Hear Spears” by Insight The Truncator and produced by Damu The Fudgemunk is a collaboration under Redefinition Records that helps keep the old ways alive and well. Insight of Boston, MA, lends his veteran lyrics to the sample-heavy smoothness of D.C.’s Damu. This album is my first exposure to Insight, but I’m familiar with some of Damu’s past work. Both artists are skilled producers in their own right, and the scratching on this album will leave you itching for more.
After a quick prelude (titled “Prelude”) lets you know what sound to expect, “All Human” presents a strong contemplation on the more negative aspects of life, like corruption and humankind’s inability to work together based on race and religion. The general sound on this album might be old-school, but the lyrical content is relevant and potent due to current tensions in the USA. The beat is appropriately morose while Insight grapples to understand why society is tainted with hatred. We’re all human, so what’s the problem? I’ve been trying to figure this out forever. There’s too much scientific wisdom in this track for me to expand on it completely in a paragraph, so I’ll just say it’s a thinky one. An equally contemplative track is “When Are We Gonna Get It Together,” which is more specific to the current and historic treatment of American Africans. The mood is more hopeful here, but equally frustrating.
Insight’s flow rides with balance on Damu’s beats. He thinks before he speaks, as his name implies. There’s an ease and laid back feeling to “Never Be The Same.” The duo creates a nostalgic and peaceful atmosphere, perhaps to make up for the very real despair felt in “All Human.” Insight and Damu clearly understand that their sound is “old-fashioned,” which is pleasant in my opinion. The duo targets the current state of mainstream hip-hop in “Know The Meaning,” Insight with his words, Damu by channeling champion emcees of the past. Seeing typed-out frustration from heads in YouTube comment sections is one thing, but when artists vent about the industry it confirms that there’s a problem with today’s music.
Insight has a way of busting out syllable-heavy lines that just work with anything. Even if the message is lost on the listener, his voice still carries weight in his steady cadence. Damu’s chaotic and dastardly “Gunnin’” is enhanced by the depiction of anarchy painted by Insight. The only potential problem with the production on this album is that it’s too fantastic, making it easy for beats to grab the listener’s attention in full. It’s sometimes easy to hear an emcee and not listen. However, Insight’s lyrics are downright immersive. He’s got a knack for imagery in his storytelling. “You Couldn’t See Me” is a cool tale of espionage and I concentrated so hard on the music I almost blacked out visually. Passengers best fasten their seatbelts or get dragged off the plane of reality. I wasn’t even mad I didn’t pack anything, and I was back before anyone knew I was gone.
“Rather Unique” is Insight’s definition of his own style and a testament to his individuality. I’ve heard many artists tout that they are unique in their own ways, so sometimes it’s funny to imagine how there are many songs about being different share similar messages. What does make this one different is Insight’s mention that I, the listener, am also capable of success. Thanks, Insight. Creators of all types find trouble separating themselves from others and defining their style, but rather than dedicate an entire song to this idea as an explanation, it might work better to let the music speak for the artist. Then again, I’ve written articles that explain why I say the things I do, so I guess we all get in that soapbox mindset sometimes. What’s also interesting here is Insight says folks compare him to Rakim, which is an honor and a valid comparison, but he would prefer if you recognize his sole style without comparing him to someone else. As a listener, it’s difficult not to categorize or compare artists. I would stop, but the human brain is terrified of what it can’t understand, so putting artists in boxes saves me from certain psychological doom.
“Aight If You Bite” is a bumping journey of styles and techniques used by artists. It might be a revelation to some, but anyone claiming to have invented their own sound was definitely influenced by someone at some point. It’s important not to recycle sounds and to hone your own style. Especially comedians. You can respect the work of others and draw inspiration from it, but don’t copy and give credit where credit is due. I think this message can be applied to any creative medium, making it a useful song to remember. For example, if you’re and a painter and admire Salvador Dali’s work, don’t just re-paint his melting clocks. Paint something else that melts. Like ‘smores. The album finishes with “It’s Over,” which cycles through different states and examples of things that are complete. It’s over in more ways than one.
“Ears Hear Spears” feels like a flashback. Insight’s targeted words of wisdom combined with Damu’s recruitment of classic instrumentals contribute to a renaissance of musical integrity, but all while contributing artists master their own individual styles. This album holds a strong message on the state of America and also on mainstream hip-hop. We see hip-hop itself as the subject of many hip-hop songs as of late. Perhaps this is due to the recent surge in political action taking place in our country and a desire to change things we don’t like. It’s incredible to see all sorts of artists use music to speak their minds and relate with people, but sometimes I wonder if social change is their primary goal and music is just their preferred method of activism. I was once told that the arts always reflect the society, and the more I think about it the more truthful it rings.
The tone of this album is perhaps a bit frustrated and pessimistic at times, which is common when veterans drop new material, but instead of being grumpy Insight and Damu take an almost educational approach with this one. Whether you prioritize lyrics with a message, or if you like booming beats and turntable smithing, the duo has you covered. If you appreciate the old-school vibe then I’m fairly confident you’ll love this. “Ears Hear Spears” was released on March 22, 2017.