Album Review: Flex Digits – Intergalactic Flu (2010)

Don’t Flop battler and Prison Planet co-founder Flex Digits laid down an emphatic blueprint for his brand of Northern-heavy hip-hop when he released Intergalactic Flu back in ’09. Infused with overstatement, violence, sex and drugs, and bolstered by an arsenal of polysyllabic rhymes, soaring choruses and huge grandiose beats, the album is a must for the hardcore hip-hop enthusiast.

For a start, it’s production credentials are very impressive: Saint Bastard, Faceraper and the renowned Anno Domini who has produced for the likes of Immortal Technique, add some weighty production values to an album that certainly doesn’t disappoint with its rich sonic soundscapes. ‘Satan’s Symphony’ – a track drenched in full-on gratuitous horrorcore – stands out with its seamless orchestral sounds as well as its impressively epic hook-laden choruses. Not only does the album’s sound impress but individual tracks, bar a couple of filler numbers, bear very clear, well-constructed themes. Conceptually, the collaboration track ‘Faces of War’ is brilliant, telling the story from a fictional 1st person perspective of the woes of 3 characters leaving behind their loved ones and having to face to the horrors and inhumanity of frontline warfare. Guest spots on this include Sheffield-honed emcee, The Ruby Kid, and Vee Da I, a fellow Chesterfield-based emcee of South African origin. Vee tells shocking tales of rape and pillage in his African village with no small measure of aplomb and Flex delivers big, unabashed descriptions of war such as witnessing a “child sacrificed on blood-splattered samsonite”, which are both evocative as they are brutal.

At times, Flex’s multisyllabic rhyme schemes sound a little contrived and this can occasionally is to the detriment of his storytelling, which can come across as somewhat stilted. It would be nice if he could tone this down a little because he certainly shows he is a competent wordsmith with no shortage of verbal ammunition and lyrical skill. Such skill is particularly evident in ‘Rain Check’, the album’s more introspective number, with Flex telling his narrative as a wayward, unfocused school kid with a longing to fulfill his ambition of a rap career despite his dreams threatening to be crushed by the ugly exigencies of real-world life and the barrage of cynicism he encounters from his teachers. The track features a refreshingly simple piano riff set to a minor key with fluttering half-step trills lending deep, haunting gradations to the engrossing story. In contrast, ‘Spoons’ features some nattily eccentric Spanish instrumental and vocal samples (a nod perhaps to Flex’s Spanish heritage) as well as some blatantly explicit rhymes, which though seemingly a little incongruous when juxtaposed, actually work surprisingly well. The track has some very memorable rhymes, if only for their shock value (“I wanna fuck you on your doorstep/ Grotesque like the thought of Dawn French on a porn set.”) but at the same time, it’s not gut-wrenchingly horrific stuff either. If you’re so deeply offended by it that you fail to recognize its merits, then I suggest you forgo listening to ‘Intergalactic Flu’ altogether.

Flex definitely plays to his strengths with no hint of an allusion to more experimental sample sources and tempos as means of varying the album, and for that I applaud him greatly. He is a no-nonsense emcee with a bellowing vocal tone, a gravelly harsh North Derbyshire accent and an unambiguous “fuck you” attitude. His lyrics are flamboyantly amoral and completely without irony which, as such, draw many obvious comparisons to Necro. However, it wouldn’t really be fair to immediately pigeonhole Flex as a gore-rapper with yet another clichéd spawn of Necro-esque horrorcore because there are certainly some honest strands in the album without him ever getting overly mawkish or sentimental; that just ain’t his style, nor does would it especially befit his brash persona. In essence, ‘Intergalactic Flu’ is all about raw, unapologetic lyricism over densely layered melodies and boldly epic instrumentals with hard bass drum snares.

Overall, the album definitely has a more mixtape vibe as the tracks featured span various phases in Flex’s career, plus it peters out a little bit towards the end and could serve to go out with more of bang to leave the listener with a stronger impression and to give the album a more cohesive feel overall. Nonetheless, this is a really solid debut from the Prison Planet front man and an album definitely worthy of more attention.

To download ‘Intergalactic Flu’ for free, visit Prison Planet Records official website.

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