Sammy Warm Hands & Ogar Burl — “Rare Form”
By Taylor McAnally
Cover Impressions: Loving this cover, especially in conjunction with the themes of growth present in the record. There is something inherently highly amusing to me about the expressions on the faces here. It feels as if they are a splitting amoeba that doesn’t necessarily want to break apart. The way the colors splash and bleed and blend is wonderful, very cool cover that stands out and is iconic in its own way.
The sophomore record billed as ‘Sammy Warm Hands & Ogar Burl’ presents what can only be seen as a massive step up for the artists named. In every facet, Rare Form is good, at the very least. In many aspects it is great and a couple of the tracks on this album are amazing, and deserve a place in the collection of any fan of Hip Hop. The love of the genre mingles throughout, appearing in the lyrics but also in the frequent scratch breaks (that are almost always timed perfectly to be enticing and engaging without going overly long), the sound design and the mood/environment the album presents.
It begins with one of the aforementioned scratching sections, as records had a propensity to do in the short-form past. That above all is what this record strikes me as–not only both throwback and tribute, but an evolution of the form albums took in the early 2000s. The Rhymesayers comparisons are more than fair here, Sammy and Ogar both sound like they’d be right at home in that era. Though that isn’t to say they aren’t quite comfortable here! The decision to hand production to many of the most talented producers working in the underground today was a great one. Just to repeat, from a production angle, Rare Form is aggressively good.
The track progression is quite strong, never letting the listener get too comfortable with any one song. In my estimation that is great, each song stands on its own but also lends its energy to the track that comes after it. Ogar Burl must not escape mention as stepping up his lyrical game on this release. Both he and Sammy deal in smart slant rhymes, swift punchlines and scant pauses. However, it is Ogar who really seems to shine lyrically, who comes with the really great moments and lines that only make the work as a whole stronger.
One of the major themes in Rare Form is touring. While I feel this may isolate the fellows from listeners who aren’t necessarily into this facet of the music industry, on the other hand it ingratiates the tracks here to anyone who has experience with live performance and being on the road, and the amusing foibles that one sees everywhere while traveling and sharing oneself with as much of the world as possible. The frustration with rappers who refuse to pay dues is most prevalent in “Amateur Hour”, a rollicking rebuke of local artists who aren’t true to themselves artistically and don’t support the road warriors they’re playing with. Again, if one doesn’t have experience in the field it may not connect as well, but I’ve always felt that this was one of Sammy’s strongest areas. Being able to appeal to other artists on a level unique to them can be a very strong tool in anyone’s box.
The latter half of the album seems to focus more on internal themes, on hope and growth, evolution and change. That isn’t to say that the emcees stop having fun, far from. This half of the record really shows off the capabilities of Sammy and Ogar lyrically, bolstered by some really amazing features from Ebb One and Grayskul. As a matter of fact, every feature on this record is sharp and precise, contributing vastly to the feeling and mood of the tracks they are on. This is part and parcel what they are referring to directly on the record, the years of work and development are really showing on this release.
Now, for a brief rundown of things that didn’t quite speak to me. Though the energy of the album is frenetic and palpable, there are moments where the format of the songs monotonizes, where it’s a repetition of the verse-chorus-verse that could be helped by a bridge or two. The abundance of lyrics means that the first blush won’t be enough and while this isn’t necessarily a fault of the record (all great music requires multiple listens), it may be a turn-off for some of the shorter attention-spanned heads out there. There are also a few mixing issues, such as on “Break The Mold” and a couple of the other harder songs where the vocals of the verses blend heavily into the music, though the hooks are always very clear and stand out well.
To return quickly to the issue of monotony in the vocals, in the back half of the record I was wondering if there would be a point where Sammy or Ogar would switch their styles up a bit. While a full-breathed assault on the lyrics heavily benefits a live performance, I would have liked to hear a moment or two where the guard is truly dropped and sadness or something similar would infect one or both of their voices. Even on “Marrow” (which is a great track don’t get me wrong), whose beat invites the listener to a dark sludgy tar-esque pool, Sammy and Ogar hit their verses the same way they’ve been doing it the whole record, just at a slightly lower degree of push. However, that makes Onry Ozzborn and JFK Ninjaface’s feature verses even more compelling and makes the track itself into one of the rare, for me, really good Hip Hop songs that goes over 4 minutes.
In summary, Rare Form is a highly solid piece of work that deserves the attention of anyone who calls themself a fan of Hip Hop. It is clear that everyone involved with the creation of this album puts all of themselves into their work, and the time and effort shows. This album is professional as fuck, y’all. I emphatically recommend you seek it out and, if so inclined, support the artists either with an online purchase or seeing them when they come through your city. A massive amount of respect goes from me to these cats, I can personally vouch for the fact that they are some of the hardest working underground emcees in America today. They’re a lot of fun live too, go see them!
Standout Tracks: “Break The Mold”, “Amateur Hour”, “Slubberdegullion”, “Marrow”
Check out the album and videos below!!!
Break The Mold
Heart & Soul (feat. Myka 9)