When the disc you’re listening to starts with a sample of dialogue from Bill “The Butcher” Cutting from Gangs of New York, you know it’s not gonna be light.
Vernon rapper NOX (aka Rory McLeod) is true to old-school gangsta rap and digs heavily into that atmosphere, parental advisory and all.
NOX’s album, F.E.A.R. is heavy in vibe and sonically deep and dense. In Green Diablo he’s got the menacing, mean street urban sound and persona nailed (also F.E.A.R.).
His images are stark. They’re not sugar coated or ambiguous but one gets the sense that he means and believes what he raps.
The sound and mood of the album is initially intense with NOX’s words dark and full of bravado. But as with most urban rap, the production catches up with the story-lines quickly.
The production of F.E.A.R. Is dramatic and neon drenched. Vernon producers Chad Hector and Kyle English of Track Star Productions bring down the heavy vibe of loud nightclubs, gritty downtown scenes and a flashy Blade Runner-type instrumental mix.
The songs work in strong linear fashion and resolve into a hypnotic theme, despite the intense growling of NOX’s rapping. Standout tracks are Big Money, Nobody Knows Me and Ride for the Game. This is in-your-face word work that’s backed with trippy and forceful track work.
F.E.A.R. may not be for the faint of heart, although there are moments of levity. When I’m Gone brings a classic ghetto film sensibility to a tender father-daughter dialogue; one of NOX’s most soulful songs here.
F.E.A.R. Is a startling and forceful album that recalls the inspiration of older urban rap revisited with some heavy soundscaping.
— Dean Gordon-Smith is a musician and music columnist based in Vernon B.C. His column, Street Sounds, appears in The Morning Star every Friday.