Qwel & Meaty Ogre Freezerburner

[Galapagos4; 2006]

Rating: 3.5/5

Styles: independent hiphop, Chicago underground
Others: Typical Cats, Offwhyte, Sole

Floating on the surface, with the lily pads, algae, and dill weeds: Qwel, like a fellow Chicagoan (Common) exercises a monotonous delivery that he seems more than content with (judging from its prolonged usage on a stack of prior records [Qwel's resume is not what one would call thin]), though Qwel's lyrics are denser than that Gap Rapper decked out in beige. Qwel's words string syllables together and muddle in an often-mesmerizing assault. He doesn't often trip up, though. Good footing (or tonguing — though it sounds explicit). Qwel's voice is confident, but not cocksure, as he's let much of his early-career braggadocio subside (comfortable with his cock size now).

Meaty Ogre's beats are far better than the pronunciation of his name implies. His style of production is typical of the time and typical of underground hip-hop with a smart, heartfelt bent. That said, it lacks any clear separation from a wealth of likeminded producers. Freezerburner — can you guess it's a wintry album? Qwel is working through a cycle of seasonal albums, this being the iciest, darkest — black sheets of ice for slipmats. Any green beat-maker will let you know sculpting a "wintry" track is the easiest. Samples that include frigidity seem to be more prevalent in old crates. They are also more appealing to the underground producer — anything cheery is almost immediately tossed out. Still, Meaty Ogre supports the show. He does good; above par and maybe a forehead above the competition (head and shoulder aspirations?—give it a couple more projects).

Dipping below the surface (not deep enough to drown), exploring the dark depths, abysses, and octopus caves: Qwel has often been caught in the whirlwind of controversy due to his Christian lean. He's been laughed at, lampooned, and everything in between (which basically includes synonyms lambasted, ridiculed, and derided). Though the focus and fuss is on this oddball Christianity, Freezerburner touches on things beyond Qwel's beliefs. But the evangelical moments are clearly stated ("I ain't no motherfucking monkey" [on "Machinegun Monkey"], "It seems like nowadays everybody can speak they minds except Christians" [on "High Tithe"]). The other issues that are explored, such as... well, new paragraph.

Such as on "Don Quixote." The song, besides ostensibly being about a delusional man and making a few references to Cervantes' novel, is hard to get the point of. It doesn't seem to be about much. The slurring chorus is the laziest and most annoying on the album, and the song if nothing else proves Qwel has a novice knowledge of the actual work — he's no Faulkner (for those of you who avoided that American Southern Gothic course, he read it annually). "The Fourth Reich of the Rich" is a skimming-along-the-surface of class struggle, mostly punch lines shaped around the topic. The album's final song, "Asceticism," includes a spoken outro by Qwel concerning the need for change in the world and in one's self. It's the same naiveté that permeates the entire album. Rappers never seem to truly delve into their minds; they only scratch the surface of thoughts. This has been the Achilles' heel of rap for years. They don't buckle down. They mosey and, very often, strut. They're always trying, though, and Qwel tries a little harder than then rest. Commendable.

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