[ELECTRO-HIP-HOP] The most prevalent lyrical themes in mainstream rap are (in order of descending popularity): “Money is awesome”; “My crew and I are awesome”; “Bitches and weed are awesome (but also troublesome).”
So it’s refreshing to hear Hives Inquiry Squad’s less-conventional recurring theme committed to tape: “Big, often antiquated words strung together at odd angles…are awesome.” There is simply no other crew in Portland that would attempt to string together a verse like this one, from the druggy, Disney-esque Edifice opener, “Enire”: “Charismatic caricatures carry the herds to the meadows/ Where we buried the ’burbs, nature returned—now that’s retro/ Asbestos to vessel/ Lay low below potential/ Eventual celestial sentient intellectuals.” While not a clearly navigable narrative, that passage sweeps colorful post-apocalyptic imagery in through the listener’s ears whether they catch each twist or not. It’s psychedelic rap, and in tandem with a pair of earbuds and Gavin Theory’s woozy, drum-’n’-bass-inspired beats, there’s enough here to trip you the fuck out.
Now, not everyone wants their hip-hop to trip them the fuck out, and they’ll be annoyed on a few fronts here: Theory and fellow MC Lucas Dix’s bubbly voices tend to blur together, and their verbal assault is so unrelenting that the disc might have worked better as two EPs than as an overwhelming full-length disc.
Still, Hives Inquiry Squad
is onto something, as evidenced by a growing cult following that kind of looks
like it’s about to board the Further bus and interest from more traditional
local hip-hop artists taking note of Hives’ infectious live energy. Hives
Inquiry Squad may indeed be (as Dix rhymes on “Toxic Algae Bloom”) “lost on a
tangent, lamping into Xanadu”—but there are sure a lot of folks along for the