Given the current climate of the hip-hop world — where the most ear-bendingly innovative production often serves as aural sweetener for the by-rote thug lyricism of so much mainstream rap — the notion of “indie” hip-hop (at least as a signifier of boundary-pushing music) probably seems quaint at best and woefully outdated at worst. The Baltimore, MD (via D.C.)-based Food For Animals are all-too-aware of this conundrum, but rather than retreating to Golden-Era boom-bapisms — or simply bathing such warmed-over beat production in fuzz — the three-man group take what they like, and blow the genre wide open.
Moored by Ricky Rabbit’s fractured, lush beat production — which references the gamut of contemporary urban and electronic musics (Southern hip-hop, ghettotech, Baltimore club, dubstep, power electronics, straight-up noise) — rappers Vulture V and new member Hy weave intricate back-and-forth flows explicating the highs and lows of life in “the belly”. Belly is Food For Animals’ first full-length album, following 2004’s Scavengers EP.
And the three years in between changed everything: The permanent addition of new member Hy changed the entire dynamic of the group, and transformed the live shows from noisy mindfucks into outrageous futuristic parties. The naive sloganeering rants of the Scavengers EP are replaced by a much fuller picture. “Belly Kids” examines war from every angle, “You Right” and “Shhhy” philosophize, “Swampy” humorously melts in DC’s heat, and “Grapes” is Vulture V’s journey through the end of his mother’s life (her death of cancer in 2005 slowed things down for awhile).
Drawing upon influences as disparate as Outkast, Pita, Wu-Tang, and The Pop Group, FFA literally sound like no else. Easily their opus, Belly is about being eaten and coming out different.