By Social Anxiety
It’s no surprise that the modern musical landscape nowadays is over saturated with forgettable pop/hip-hop fusion albums that chide you to sing along to their songs yet offer no meaningful content or concepts for listeners to grasp. With that said, “Funeral Games” by Zeus & J. Mike rises through this sea of chemically sterilized, boring shades of grey like a beacon of light for the music community to rally to. If you don’t know about this album yet still put yourself on pedestals with statements such as “underground hip-hop is life” slap yourself because you are a damn hypocrite and then kindly read these following words carefully because Social Anxiety is about to educate you regarding a brave and bold release that is contributing to this musical revolution the underground community is starting by spurring the psychological enlightenment of the masses through art. On “Funeral Games”, Zeus & J.Mike manage to invite transcendence beyond an auditory experience through the use of hypnotizing melodies, heartbeat-mirroring tempos, and hyper-introspective lyrics that invoke a refreshing response in a genre that can get stale if not treated with the proper respect and humility.
Zeus, a combo rapper/singer/filmmaker is also the co-founder (along with his brother Izzy Strange) of Beasley’s Corner Bodega which establishes itself as a collective hub for independent hip-hop music whose home base lies on the outskirts of Pittsburgh, PA. “Funeral Games” was co-produced by Zeus and multi-instrumentalist and producer J.Mike (also from BCB) and was created from scratch utilizing no samples whatsoever over the course of the year in Pennsylvania and then California where it was recorded with engineer and former tourmate Danny G of dubldragon who also contributed production (another dope group who you should check out: https://lobetrotterscollective.bandcamp.com/album/y-wulvz).
The album draws you in with its hypnotic opening track “Costume Party” that leads into the excitedly charming song “Suicidal Art”. The 80’s are alive and well in many of the songs on this album while keeping just enough of modern touch to provide a familiarity to the millennials that are sure to stumble across it. The piano melody in the titular track “Funeral Games” buries itself within your soul until it festers into a cavalcade of synths and percussion that build up like a pop fantasy which bands like CHVRCHES would be proud of until it disintegrates into a cacophonous and dark outro that bands like Depeche Mode invented. The fact that “Sand Masks” features Ceschi Ramos (https://ceschi.bandcamp.com) of Fake Four Inc. should make it a standout, but it being a fierce and memorable track also helps immensely because this is hands down one of the coolest collaborations that will have been released this year.
“Sock Puppets” features one of my favorite flows by Zeus on the album and some of the most well-written lyrics on the album. “Soy Sauce” features my some of favorite production on the album and “Pyramid” features one of my favorite choruses on the album and a masterfully executed feature verse by Skeptik of the aforementioned group dubldragon. “Lights At Night” is one of those songs that if you are an artist (or are in a position to relate to another artist’s struggle and determination) it permeates your psyche and speaks to the truths that you hold as self-evident. “George’s Morals” features Izzy Strange (https://midnamedanger.bandcamp.com/album/dinner-with-my-enemies) slaying a verse and an addictive chorus alongside a beat that pops and crackles along like a bowl of Rice Krispies and makes for one of the strongest tracks on the album. A lot of times an album’s features come off as unnecessary distractions from the flow of an album such as with the majority of the features on Sadistik’s “Salo Sessions” EP or some of the more ridiculous sounding features on El-P’s “Cancer 4 Cure” album. “Funeral Games” does not suffer from this problem, however, and I’ll go even further to say that the features on this album are so precise and appropriate that I can’t really picture an existence in which these songs don’t have these features. “The Great One Eight” closes this album in a spectacular fashion and honestly leaves you wanting more from Zeus and Co.
Also, I didn’t want you all to think I forgot about the wonderful scratching contributions of DJ Mist. I just wanted to give him his own acknowledgement because DJ’s that do as great of work as he did deserve that. His contributions bounced around between being incredibly subtle to amazingly nuanced and added another dimension to the two songs he was on. Also, I want to acknowledge all of the producers on this album (Zeus, J.Mike, & Danny G) because their love for music and artistic integrity were prominent across the entire album. When I listened to this album I heard the love and the enjoyment creating this album must have manifested within all of you and it made me love and enjoy the album even more.
High points: Zeus’ lyrics and flow were on point throughout the entirety of the album. Seriously, this guy is a force to be reckoned with. Production by Zeus, J.Mike, and Danny G was also outstanding and created a beautiful atmosphere to serve as the backdrop for the lyrics. The features were all excellent and necessary to the smooth flow of the album, I honestly don’t have a favorite feature on the album because each featured artist performed to their highest capabilities which put them all on a similar pedestal. Scratches by DJ Mist were all expertly crafted and add necessary nuances to each song although I would’ve preferred more scratching across the album.
Low points: I believe the vocals could have been arranged to sit more comfortably in the mix of the album. At times Zeus’ profound lyrics get somewhat buried under the music.
Standout tracks: “Suicidal Art”, “Funeral Games”, “Sand Masks”, “Sock Puppets”, “Soy Sauce”, “Pyramids”, “Lights At Night”, “George’s Morals”, “The Great One Eight”… or in other words, nearly the entire goddamn album. Seriously. Get this album. Artists like Zeus deserve to be put on pedestals, adorned, and invested in because they will only get better from here on out and you don’t want to be the fool that was idiotic enough to sleep on this guy in the beginning.
You can buy “Funeral Games” by Zeus & J.Mike at: