Social Studies – Social Studies EP
Genre: Hip-hop/Experimental hip-hop
Label: Daddy Tank Records
Social Studies is a duo project made up by vocalist Zano and producer Chris Devoe, and while their names are known, very little else seems to be known about them, managing to stay in the dark better than most artists who emphasise a hidden identity (although, MF Doom has been pretty on top of it). However, the duo behind Social Studies never really focus on this and simply deliver groundbreaking music – and perhaps it is with no platform to be biased on that it’s best to hear experimental hip-hop this way.
In 2011, Social Studies released the “Proxemic” album, where each track is a numbered ‘assignment’ – the ending section of Assignment Two featuring the unfathomable idea (yet great in execution) of sampling The Cure’s A Forest as a backing track. So it’s clear that Social Studies is focusing its niche along with the uprising of noise/industrial/rock influenced hip-hop, à la Death Grips, B L A C K I E, Billy Woods as well as Dälek; who have been pushing socio-critic lyrics over noisy beats since the late 90’s. The vocals here are especially similar to early B L A C K I E, before the shouting that is a staple in his sound now.
So, the first of three tracks is The Wapner, a warped glitch-heavy track that feels more like a collage of ideas than a straightfoward song. Claps, drums, keys and synths are all over the place yet a set rhythm is kept; so while it does feel like you can never really sit comfortable or relax with the production (especially when feedback is injected), there’s an underlying beat to hold your hand through. The lyrics start like word-association rhymes (which is common with Social Studies), but he eventually folds into more coherent lines, like “The struggle we saw was so detailed / The ones above the law ain’t below the jail”.
Then there’s Meant I’ll Know Mad, which is a lot easier on the soul than its predecessor, the beginning ambience sounding like dark Boards Of Canada, only to give way to a bass groove which reminisces the “Year Zero”-style of Nine Inch Nails, so heavy on atmosphere. It is just unbelievably sleek in comparison to the previous track and pretty much sees the lyrical style returning to the constantly changing direction of word/rhyme association, which feels less chaotic and more focused on this track.
The final track Call And Response opens with slow claps and female vocals doing, as the title suggests, a call and response lullaby and then give way to an ambient style of synths and clicks and clacks. These two phrases are basically the track itself, each repeating once after, an oddly soothing and hypnotising way to end an otherwise dark and visceral EP.
And that basically explains it… The EP is a deformed creature in concerns of general hip-hop, formed and moulded by so many different influences and sounds that it shows ‘rules’ mean very little to Social Studies. While The Wapner can feel a little hard to comprehend on the first few listens, the latter two should have no problem sitting even with mild fans of the experimental hip-hop artists mentioned earlier. If you’re fiddling your thumbs for more seething, unorthodox hip-hop then this is definitely worth your time and ears.
Favourite tracks: Meant I’ll Know Mad, Call And Response.