FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Kush Zombies: QELD’s Hat Tip to Old School Hip Hop

by

Hip hop has always been an ideal vehicle of social commentary. Born in the black ghettos of large cities like New York and Los Angeles, it gave a voice to people from economically and socially marginalized communities who had otherwise been condemned to silence. Today it is a global culture; it has also been partly co-opted by the culture industry for ideological sanitization and commodification, lead by artists prone to glorifying the social and economic dynamics that created the adverse circumstances from which their genre was born.

Fortunately the underground is alive and well, still turning out quality tunes that have something to say, that entertain while they educate and that are fun to listen to all at the same time, even if those responsible get precious little of the recognition they deserve. This is true as much as anywhere where Bristol duo QELD, featuring Bob Savage (lyrics) and Jenre (lyrics/production), are concerned. Their long-brewing and long-awaited debut LP Kush Zombies is a combination of soulful, technically capable production and lyrics both insightful and acerbic.

Indeed, the marked sophistication both in terms of music production and lyrical content is the great strength of Kush Zombies; the laudible aversion of QELD to preachiness on the one hand lets the album stand alone as a musical release, and on the other makes it enjoyable to listen to as a political statement. Paradoxically this makes the conspicuously radical commentary more accessible and appealing. It takes an unusual amount of creative skill to be able to produce songs with titles like Oligarch Hit Squad and USSR that would work equally well as the soundtrack for a trip to the beach or to the picket line.

Musically, Kush Zombies is a hap tip to old school hip hop, and a great example of such. Think the kind of laid back guitar hits and cool, rolling bassline reminiscent of Curtis Mayfield’s Pusherman, a song that translated so well into Ice-T’s hip hop classic I’m Your Pusher. Is the south-west of England even even known for having a strong soul scene? Not as far as this writer knows. One assumes that if QELD were from the north, their geography might make their command of that sound less impressive, being common coin for the area. Tunes like We Can Go, with its breezy backing vocals and moderately upbeat bass, and So True, with its meditative, downbeat tone and jazzy brass samples, are real highlights in this respect.

Where the lyrical content is concerned, QELD pull of the rare trick of being able to manage a tenor that matches the tone of the music. Refreshingly, defiant humour characterizes Kush Zombies, rather than defiant anger as is common of many politicaly radical acts. At times the rhymes are laugh-out-loud hilarious, generating at the same moment a lingering pathos that speaks to the great issues of the day; in We Can Go, for example, Savage casually declares amidst a very laid back backing track, ‘This ain’t no Death Cab for Cutie / just QELD running death camps for bourgies,’ throwing in a pregnant grunt in the next beat for good measure. You can well imagine the pair sitting around brainstrorming lyrics, laughing their arses off at some of the material they come up with and running with it because it makes a good point: the bourgies have a lot to answer for.

In an interview with libcom.org in fact, Savage recalls spending a lot of time working on material with partner in crime Jenre for their own amusement. This carries inasmuch as Kush Zombies sounds like the blokes who made it don’t fully realize how good they are at what they do. All the better for us, because neither do they fall prey to the trap of getting lost up their own arses in the style of, say, Kanye West. Not do they parody themselves either by spouting dogma or affecting anger or cockney accents recalling ancient stereotypes of industrial workers for the sake of pandering to the converted. They don’t need to.

Kush Zombies is available for digital download and via mail order at https://qeld.bandcamp.com/.

More articles by:

Ben Debney is a PhD candidate in International Relations at Deakin University, Burwood, Melbourne. He is studying moral panics and the political economy of scapegoating. Twitter: @itesau  

January 23, 2018
Carl Boggs
Doomsday Panic in Hawaii
Mark Ashwill
If I Were US Ambassador to Vietnam…
Jack Rasmus
US Government Shutdown: Democrats Blink…Again
Nick Pemberton
The Inherent Whiteness of “Our Revolution”
Leeann Hall
Trump’s Gift for the Unemployed: Kicking Them Off Health Care
Dean Baker
Lessons in Economics For the NYT’s Bret Stephens: Apple and Donald Trump’s Big Tax Cut
Mitchell Zimmerman
Law, Order and the Dreamers
Ken Hannaford-Ricardi
The Kids the World Forgot
Dave Lindorff
South Korea Slips Off the US Leash
Ali Mohsin
Extrajudicial Murder of Pashtun Exposes State Brutality in Pakistan
Jessicah Pierre
Oprah is No Savior
John Carroll Md
Keeping Haiti in Perspective
Amir Khafagy
Marching Into the Arms of the Democrats
January 22, 2018
Patrick Cockburn
It’s Time to Call Economic Sanctions What They Are: War Crimes
Jim Kavanagh
Behind the Money Curtain: A Left Take on Taxes, Spending and Modern Monetary Theory
Sheldon Richman
Trump Versus the World
Mark Schuller
One Year On, Reflecting and Refining Tactics to Take Our Country Back
Winslow Wheeler
Just What Earmark “Moratorium” are They Talking About?
W. T. Whitney
José Martí, Soul of the Cuban Revolution
Uri Avnery
May Your Home Be Destroyed          
Wim Laven
Year One Report Card: Donald Trump Failing
Jill Richardson
There Are No Shithole Countries
Bob Fitrakis - Harvey Wasserman
Are the Supremes About to Give Trump a Second Term?
Laura Finley
After #MeToo and #TimesUp
Howard Lisnoff
Impressions From the Women’s March
Andy Thayer
HuffPost: “We Really LOVED Your Contributions, Now FUCK OFF!”
Weekend Edition
January 19, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Dr. King’s Long Assassination
David Roediger
A House is Not a Hole: (Not) Caring about What Trump Says
George Burchett
How the CIA Tried to Bribe Wilfred Burchett
Mike Whitney
Trump’s Plan B for Syria: Occupation and Intimidation
Michael Hudson – Charles Goodhart
Could/Should Jubilee Debt Cancellations be Reintroduced Today?
Marshall Auerback – Franklin C. Spinney
Boss Tweet’s Generals Already Run the Show
Andrew Levine
Remember, Democrats are Awful Too
James Bovard
Why Ruby Ridge Still Matters
Wilfred Burchett
The Bug Offensive
Brian Cloughley
Now Trump Menaces Pakistan
Ron Jacobs
Whiteness and Working Folks
Jeffrey St. Clair
The Keeper of Crazy Beats: Charlie Haden and Music as a Force of Liberation
Robert Fantina
Palestine and Israeli Recognition
Jan Oberg
The New US Syria “Strategy”, a Recipe For Continued Disaster
ADRIAN KUZMINSKI
The Return of the Repressed
Mel Gurtov
Dubious Partnership: The US and Saudi Arabia
Robert Fisk
The Next Kurdish War Looms on the Horizon
Lawrence Davidson
Contextualizing Sexual Harassment
Jeff Berg
Approaching Day Zero
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail