Remember when rappers were poets? When there was incredible substance and reflection in rap lyrics? When you weren’t allowed to “rhyme” the same word three times (Juicy J rhymes “people” three times in a row on “Who Da Neighbors”)? When albums were released in tangible form and you held a little booklet of lyrics to examine? Rap doesn’t seem to be like that much anymore. The rappers most non-fans are familiar with are the ones who are on TV, all over the internet, on the radio, basically the ones making the most money. In a world full of rappers, Sadistik is still a poet, and it’s not going to make him rich.
Let’s briefly address the plight of the white rapper. Only recently have acts like Riff Raff and Action Bronson broken the mold of emotionally driven sad/angry white rappers. Def Jux did a good job at nailing the niche, with rappers like El-P himself, Cage (who is featured on “Russian Roulette” on Flowers for My Father), and Aesop Rock. However, there were also rappers outside of the label that fit the same description like Sage Francis, Soul Khan, and even Eminem to a certain degree.
It pains me to admit that Sadistik does easily fall into the expressive sad white rapper category. But that’s not the worst thing. No one is asking 2 Chainz to make an Edgar Allen Poe reference, but coming from Sadistik it is much appreciated and appropriate: “I extinguish flames until Hell fell dark and bury bodies under floorboards like Tell Tale Hearts” comes from “Russian Roulette” featuring Cage and Yes Alexander. This is the track that stood out instantly, the highlight being the fat sounding ’80s style synth bass and how its notes climb up the scale until the bar resets in an inexplicably satisfying way. The percussion on the song is subtle and comfortable, but more importantly matches the ambient vibes provided by the bass and some airy keyboards.
The album definitely challenges the listener at times. The opening guitar riff to “Snow White” emotive and morose, implies the song will song will blossom into some kind of powerful underground rap ballad similar to El-P’s “The Overly Dramatic Truth”. What ensues though is a more typical rap beat, which detracts from how emotional the song I expected would be. However, it gave Sadistik the chance to show off a bit and it’s impressive. The verses are slow and paced like a slam poem. The chorus is much more rap friendly and bold. I dig the decision to make the catchy ear-grabbing portion of the song into the chorus, allowing himself room to explore during the verses and breaks.
Yet another strong difference between Sadistik’s brand of rap and current commercial rap would be how they approach the topic of cocaine. “Yeah you wait in line to take a line. A powdered nose and some makeup might erase the strife,” and “you can’t afford the habit that you chose” are both lyrics from “Snow White” (duh). Meanwhile some of rap’s biggest names like Rick Ross, Pusha T, and Juicy J make their careers through ‘moving coke’ raps, in which they brag about how much of the substance they have sold. Has anyone seen The-Dream and Pusha T’s “Dope Bitch” video? It’s set against a black background, but you can’t tell because white powder is at the forefront of every shot, snatching the viewer’s attention. The glorification of narcotics is something rap music has been known for since the ’90s, but Sadistik fittingly addresses the topic in a more somber and realistic fashion, truer to his style.
Sadistik’s lyrics on the album are strong and thoughtful, as usual. Musically, however, there is not much to write home about. The next closest thing to a standout besides “Roulette” is “Michael”, which resembles a Clams Casino beat because of its heavy reverb, unconventional snare drum, and ambient moaning, but most of those elements don’t persist throughout the whole song. Another Clams-esque production is “Melancholia”. Gloomy, introspective, and atmospheric, the beat most certainly reflects Sadistik’s melancholy, but so do most tracks he’s ever done.
“Kill The King”, featuring Deacon the Villain, is a decent and moody track as well, comprised of low synthy bass and a trap drum kit with a nice little piano accent to add some flavor. Over “Kill The King”, Sadistik raps “No, I won’t say I’m getting stronger/’cause what doesn’t kill me only makes me wait a little longer/Play the chupacabra when I take a few more shots of all the Jamie, booze and vodka til I change into a mon-ster”. This is where I feel the album would be better as a book of poems rather than a musical release. It’s heavy, just what he does best.The rest of the music does not take many chances. This is not to say the remainder of the beats on the album are bad, they are just a bit flatter than your average 2013 hip hop album. This benefits Sadistik in some regards, as it allows the focus to stay on his lyrics and delivery, but it degrades the album a bit when you are not being compelled musically. Having said that, Flowers for My Father is certainly a strong sophomore release from Sadistik in the right direction, there’s only room for him to grow from here.
On Dec. 18, Sadistik did an “Ask Me Anything” on Reddit. A user asked: “What tips and tricks would you advice aspiring rappers?” to which Sadistik responded: “Write honestly. And have fun because there’s a lot of disappointments to come.” I found this to be amusingly fitting of the personality reflected through his lyrics, part hopeful, but mostly morbid, an odd outlook for someone with a promising future.