Darc Mind

Symptomatic of a Greater Ill

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It's not often that a hip-hop album released in 2006 sounds like it was made in the mid-'90s, right when rap was heading into a monumental change, towards greater commercialism and ubiquity. It's so infrequent, in fact, that the reason why Darc Mind's debut, Symptomatic of a Greater Ill, has such a Native Tongues-vibe is because it was actually recorded between 1995 and 1997, but due to label problems, wasn't released until nearly a decade later by Anticon. And it's the kind of album that makes you miss early Tribe, Organized Konfusion, and Eric B. & Rakim, because it reminds you just how good hip-hop could be back then (of course, there's also a lot of great contemporary stuff, too, but that's not the point). MC Kevroc has a relaxed, nearly conversational style -- it hardly seems like he's trying at all -- but is still able to twist words around internal and end rhymes, metaphors and quick, complex phrasing (his delivery on "Knight of the Round Table" is wonderfully intricate and fast) and his lines, while still exuding a certain amount of confidence, are never arrogant or aggressive. "They press and try to trap but I break it with my boogie/...I'm staring straight ahead yet I see the whole court" he explains on "Rhyme Zone," but he is also willing to point some of the conventions in hip-hop, like in "I'm Ill," when he spits "Ill is the way I exaggerate my sense of self-worth." He's talented enough that he could get away with being even more overtly boastful, but his intelligence shows off his skills better than any simple battle rhyme could. The production on Symptomatic, which allows the skills of the MC to come through while still incorporating its own influences and ideas, is handled by the other half of Darc Mind, Webb D. It's straightforward, focusing on the hollow drums, but it brings in a dusty bass and keys and horn when necessary, a kind of grittiness inherent in the beats even though they're simple and clean that reflects urbanity and life itself. It's a great record, thoughtful and aware yet still laid-back and fun, and though it took a while to be released, it's better late than never to hear this, to be reminded of everything that hip-hop can be, both in the past and hopefully, continuing on into the future.

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