QWEL & KIP KILLIGAN
The New Wine
Release Date: June 10, 2008
Rating: 4 out of 5
Sounds like: Golden Era hip-hop with a barbed, progressive bite; socially aware rhymes, skeleton-sparse snare-and-bass beats, and live instrument flourishes
Underground Chicago rhyme technician Qwel joins forces with well-known jungle producer Kip Killagain for a rock-solid slice of real-deal hip hop. Touted as the third in his four seasons/four horsemen series, The New Wine represents Qwel’s vision of springtime in a corrupt world full of social, political, and cultural atrocities. Opener “Adam & Eve” features an eerie guitar sample and a meager finger-snapping beat that matches up nicely with Qwel’s urgent, free-flowing verses, which deftly cover extensive ground. “Big Eyes” creeps at a slower pace, with deep trance-hop drums and a minor-key bass line, while “Agape Rain’s” piano/violin combination casts a more hopeful eye on the world, with Qwel evoking carnal law, karmic justice, and the ancient ideal of agape (unconditional or divine) love. After that opening trio, The New Wine bogs down a bit inside Qwel’s complex rhyme schemes, but unpredictable and well-executed instrumental samples courtesy of Killagain keep things from dragging too much. The title track burns luxuriously with a jazzy retro horn-and-sitar melody, and other highlights include the self-explanatory satire “Reality TV” and the looser Asian-influenced “Frost Seedling.” But each and every track on The New Wine shares a common thread: the fierce onslaught of Qwel’s rapid-fire indictments of the world spinning madly around him. The line between prose, poetry, and rap disappears in the face of Qwel’s awe-inspiring ability, and although the idea of one artist commandeering an entire 41-minute hip-hop album seems insane in this guest-spot dominated world, one listen to The New Wine will convince you that Qwel has plenty of fire left to burn.