Cypher The Avatar – Suicide Watch
Kicking off with ‘Nightmares’, Cypher’s production at first feels like it’s holding back, as if it’s building up for something.
Once the vocal enters the scene, it still feels distant and restrained, until it all so suddenly comes to an end and the listener is left ready and waiting for whatever is going to come next. What does come next is ‘Surrealism’, with its vintage samples and evocative brass playing, laced with vinyl crackle and hiss. ‘Awkward Mood’ starts off with a tone similar to that of Kelly and Nelly’s classic ‘Dilemma’, but creates a sound all of its own, with its fuzzed out phone-tone vocal, while ‘Contradiction’ features some great and seriously phat bass tones and some super fast rap that is rattled out at serious pace. Title track ‘Suicide Watch’ gets all moody with lounge style rhodes notes and lashings of delay on the vocal. The female vocal from Noleac Yahsin adds real texture and a sultry vibe to the track and makes things sway and swoop from side to side. ‘Nice Teeth 2’ blends some dubstep bass wub into the hip hop, creating an intriguing fusion, while ‘Juicy Gernades’ [sic] swivels around with a sense of attitude that leans in the direction of Kanye West, and ‘No Sleep’ sets out Cypher The Avatar’s stall packed with misogyny and bravado. It’s but the mid point of Suicide Watch that things begin to feel as though some momentum has built up. After a gradual easing in, it becomes clear that this album is something of a slow burner. No guns blazing, no gimmicks, but rather here we have a collection of songs that allow the listener to take the time to enter into its world and investigate what it has to offer. ‘Karma’ starts out as a skit that takes an interview sample before leading into Cypher’s laid back flow, rolling out his rhymes seemingly without any effort at all. The track is bookended comfortably with a further section of the opening sample featuring more discussion of the concept of “karma cop out”. ‘Relax, I’m One Of You Now’ plays with the production a little, throwing in some stuttered vocals that match up well with the flow of the rap, while ‘I’ll Help You Understand’ plugs in some dark and unsettling guitars. The tone of the track feels somewhat different to the music that has been delivered up until this point, and it creates a tension that really continues to emphasise the darkness that runs throughout Suicide Watch. ‘Oh Boy!!’ sounds like it should be a hyped up party number, maybe with beats running through it in the style of Rustie. In fact, it doesn’t quite turn out like that, although the reverse samples are kind of glacial and fascinating as a backing track for the rap as it unfolds on top of the beats. ‘The Run’ continues to make use of guitars, this time more sedate and repetitive, creating a kind of hypnotic feel that draws the listener in to be perhaps brainwashed or otherwise retrained by the track’s vocal content. ‘So Long Mr. Rebel’ is totally wonky and wobbly, even more terrifying with its “Let me conquer your mind” mantra, while the self hypnosis style piano notes threaten to drive the listener to blissed out insanity. ‘Television Babies’ holds the course steady with its chillout synths, while ‘Contact High’ feels as though we have been somehow led to the top of a skyscraper without realising it, to look over the world as it faces armageddon. Suicide Watch draws to a close with ‘One Bullet’, where the line “It’s time to wake up” emphasises the hypnosis suggestions all the more, and we’re left wondering just what this journey has led us to, and if it has changed us in some way.