In an age where rap is the mainstream, plenty of people have appropriated it for all sorts of wayward purposes, some of them disgraceful. But Seattle alt-rapper Sadistik (April 6, Backbooth) is part of the class of modern rap renegades that demolishes the genre’s conventions while keeping it real even by rigid old-school metrics. The guy may sport gear like a Cannibal Holocaust shirt and currently looks more like the frontman of a metal band than an MC, but homie strafes his rhymes in tight, technical cadences.
It’s no wonder he’s on Fake Four, the label founded by brothers Ceschi and David Ramos, two genre-stretching rap iconoclasts who’ve set up permanent shop out on the game’s artiest frontiers. Alongside a stable deep in underground cred that’s included luminaries like Sole, Busdriver and Florida originals Bleubird and Astronautalis, it’s one of the very few natural fits out there for a mold-breaking guy like Sadistik.
His sound is some real left-field dope with a very intimate kind of lyricism and expression, the kind that brings you into the soul of the man rather than force-feeds you what he loudly puts out. It’s more provocative and penetrating than what we’ve been programmed to expect from hip-hop, and that emotional candor of his is as rare as it is defining to his extraordinary connective power.
As good as any of Sadistik’s recordings are, none quite bottles the full intensity and authenticity of his live performance. Set against music and dim lighting both thick with mood, he opened a vein with a flow that’s remarkably liquid despite its word density. The affliction, sweat and catharsis he exudes live activate his words and feeling like no studio can.
What he and the best indie rappers do is channel rap’s vigor to mine greater emotional depth. The result is a fresh kind of swagger that doesn’t resort to basic schoolyard braggadocio. In fact, Sadistik kept thanking the audience for turning out for him, saying repeatedly, “I owe you guys,” which is strikingly personal and humble.
But maybe he’s got a point because this congregation was a more pumped and tuned-in crowd than I see at most shows, rap or otherwise. Any real artist would trade size for this kind of depth and true belief in an audience, and Sadistik’s one of those who captures hearts and minds in a way that results in a particular kinship between artist and fan. It’s a bond whose inevitable manifestation ends up in the kind of finale that has him down on the floor, in the heart of the fire, and making it go straight inferno: