- Eyedos, Guerrilla Bars
(Self-released, digital download)
Serial killing, drug binges and death camps are not topics that come up when you think about Vermont hip-hop. Buckle up, though. All are touchstones on Guerrilla Bars, the debut album from Eyedos, a Burlington rapper keen to carve his own lane.
Eyedos has been a longtime member of Jynx Inc., the local horror-core rap purists who honor the legacy of underground legends such as Jedi Mind Tricks and Non Phixion. These guys ain't Juggalos, in other words. Guerrilla Bars is an earnestly traditional hip-hop project. But it presents a vibe that's much more Fight Club mosh pit than Afrika Bambaataa block party.
Throughout the album, Eyedos displays serious growth. He comes off as a much more confident, capable rapper than ever before. The difference is clear early on.
The second track, "Perfect Crime," is a slow, atmospheric space jam from DJ Hakal and an album highlight. Eyedos scales down the volume but maintains energy, and the result is compelling. It also sets the bar for a project full of surprises. The rapper hasn't toned down the content. But this is a much more mature — and musical — album than expected.
The cover and title are a nod to Sean Price's 2005 album, Monkey Barz. But the influences and references don't stop there. Eyedos draws from Outkast as much as Wu-Tang Clan, and his chopping delivery — and limb-hacking imagery — owe a lot to Brotha Lynch Hung and Tech N9ne's speed-rap nightmares.
Mostly self-recorded, Guerrilla Bars is both an artistic statement and a professional product. Eyedos builds from a classic blueprint for a proper rap LP. There's a killer posse cut, a ballad about the past, a political manifesto, even a lyrical club anthem. This could have come out on Rawkus Records in '99.
The high-profile guest appearances hail from that same era, including C-Rayz Walz and Rakaa Iriscience of Dilated Peoples. To top it off, there's even a track with Kool G Rap, "Gun Smoke," which is a radio-ready banger about ... well, exactly what you think. No surprises there.
For all his newfound subtlety, Eyedos spends most of Guerrilla Bars snarling detailed threats over huge, loud beats. Yet shock rap in 2017 has become a flat circle, a subculture where notorious cannibals and famous atrocities are referenced alongside Drew Carey and Skeletor. (Skeletor actually comes up a lot.)
So, the real news is the melodic creativity and budding studio savvy Eyedos brings to bear. His polished hooks — especially on "Gun Smoke," "American Angster" and "Something to Say" — are a world apart from his previous work with Jynx Inc.
Are those touches enough to keep Guerrilla Bars interesting? Your mileage may vary. There is much to offend here, and it's an understatement to say the album isn't for everyone. It is a solid debut effort, though, and establishes Eyedos as a major new local voice — severed heads and all.
Guerrilla Bars by Eyedos is available at eyedos.bandcamp.com.