April 23, 2011
Review by Lisa Sullivan
Hyro Da Hero
"Birth, School, Work, Death"
Label: Stereo Bang Media
When a rapper calls himself "hero" you have to wonder if he might just have an overinflated sense of his own self worth… or even if he really wants to be taken seriously. Make no mistake about it, Hyro da Hero is serious, and his powerful message set against a backdrop that blends the best elements of old school rap and in-your-face metal, punk and thrash makes him one of the strongest contenders to hit the scene is a long time.
Birth, School, Work, Death is an unapologetic musical and lyrical assault on the rap industry, reality television, man's reliance on and submission to technology, racism, and many other contemporary ills our society is dealing with. If the lyrics don't grab you by the throat, the searing and maniacal guitar riffs, rapid fire drum beats, pounding bass, hauntisynthesizers, and an array of other instrumentation will enthrall and amaze you and leave you begging for more. Defying categorization, this release sucks you in from the first beats of the krunk-flavored opening anthem, Grudge, to the techno-inspired, psychotic closer, System Overload. In between you will find yourself vacillating between rhyming and head-banging and wanting to hit the dance floor. The change-ups come fast and furious, and not just from track to track, but often within the same track.
The opener, Grudge, is a call to arms that sets the tone for the whole album. It's a no-holds-barred assault on the current rap scene. Hyro takes shots at "fairy tale rappers with fairly tale names" and stakes his claim as the real deal, fortified with a resounding chorus underscored by synthesizers that eerily sound like a funeral march.
Edgy, distorted guitar riffs lead into The Worlds Stage. No one is spared in this song which takes a hard look at what people are willing to do for their fifteen minutes of fame. The lyrics are right on time and the music is powerful and unpretentious. The bridge is set up against a searing guitar solo and a backdrop of howls, shouts, rants and raves that underscore the theme of the song. The point is brought home in the last verse, "Reality stars act as if they're A-list, famous for nothing. Act as if the world owe them something… and we do. We owe you the truth. We gotta stop lying to youth. Co-signing, confiding, in things that don't better society. People after that big buck. Shit sucks for the one that don't give a fuck."
We Still Popular is a catchy tune with a traditional heavy metal lead-in and backbeat of guitar solos and crunchy riffs. The tempo temporarily slows and then quickly picks back up as Hyro snubs Hollywood and shares his love for his hood. It's one of the lighter songs on the release and does an excellent job of showcasing some of the amazing talent that he has assembled.
Man in My City is the other straight ahead rap anthem on the CD. Set off by magnetic synthesizers, the song showcases the frenetic rap style that Hyro is famous for and clearly makes the point that he can hold his own against anyone in his root genre.
Ghetto Ambiance is one of the most powerful tracks on the CD, bringing to mind some of the previous work that has garnered attention for Hyro such as Glimpse into New America. The lyrics tell the violent tale of living in the hood while sharing Hyro's love for this place he calls home. The song builds to a pulse-pounding crescendo, "police cars, gunshots… helicopters, ambulances, enjoy the ghetto ambiance."
Sleeping Giants is another standout. Frantically paced – vacillating from punk to hardcore to grunge and back again – it showcases the brilliant and diverse musicians. Intelligent lyrics confront problems in the community and issue a challenge to address the problems from within. "When we let the blind lead the blind, we fall off the cliff at the same time. It's mass suicide. We the sleeping giants. Time to come alive."
My favorite track is A Conversation with Hip Hop. The tempo starts out slowly and builds with a sense of urgency that matches the tone of the song. The lyrics are mournful and disheartening and leave the listener yearning for a time when hip hop stood for something, "invaded my art form, infiltrated, destroyed what I fought for... music disintegrates, these others emulate, never elevate." The tempo slows as Hyro reminisces about the origins of hip hop, and transitions into a flamenco tinged bridge that is emotionally charged and laden with despair at the thought of what hip hop has become.
The heaviest track on the release is Fuck You (Say It to Your Face). It has an old school thrash lead-in with ballsy lyrics about racism, ignorance in the rap community and other societal woes that match the intensity level. Hyro is pissed and this song reflects that sentiment "can't trust school or religion 'cuz teachers and preachers are trying to touch children." "We in a world of selfish ass hypocrites, we love cheap labor but complain about the immigrants." The distorted guitar fadeout brings solid closure to the tune.
Section 8 takes the CD in a different direction musically, still edgy but almost with an other-worldly sound featuring more synthesizers and changing rhythms. There are some moments when I am reminded of U2 and other moments when it feels like the song is being ravaged by a hardcore punk band. Again the frenetic pace of the music perfectly complements the urgency of the message.
Beam Me Up continues the trend set by Section 8. It tells the tale of a visitor to Planet Earth who witnesses our dependence on technology and can't leave fast enough. It is humorous but also sadly reflective of what our society has become. The musical pace is frantic and strangely disjointed, enabling the listener to identify with the visitor's disconnection with Earth and its inhabitants. The tune is clever and catchy, once again demonstrating the broad range of musical talents assembled.
The final tune on the release, System Overload, is also the most unique, and has tremendous crossover appeal with potential to be a favorite in dance clubs. The focus once again is on technology and man's dependence upon it, and the musicianship is simply put – brilliant. The song opens with pulsing guitar and synthesizers with clever lyrics. About two minutes in, the song kicks into high gear with powerful guitar riffs and heavy synth chords, overlaid with Hyro's fast paced lyrics. It's one of those songs that you just know you will be hearing on the radio over and over again.
Hyro da Hero has assembled the perfect band, consisting of musicians from Idiot Pilot (Daniel Anderson, guitar); At The Drive-In (Paul Hinojos, bass); and the Blood Brothers (Cody Votolato, guitar, and Mark Gajadhar, drums); to showcase his lyrical talents and merge his love of rap, punk, thrash and heavy metal. The band accompanies him on Worlds Stage, Ghetto Ambiance, Sleeping Giants, Fuck You, Section 8, and Beam Me Up which are produced by Ross Robinson (Korn, Limp Bizkit and Slipnot). Tony Royster, Jr., who drums for Jay-Z, lays tracks on We Still Popular and Conversation with Hip Hop, a song that Hyro produced himself. Alternative rockers, The Agency, out of Miami, are featured on Grudge and Man in the City. And finally, Evangelos, a Miami Beach music producer, worked with Hyro on System Overload.
At first glance, you may be tempted to pass this up, especially if rap isn't your flavor. But Hyro brings a lot more than rap to the mix, and lays some amazing tracks that will have you asking for more. Just check out his page… after touring with bands like Cypress Hill and Hatebreed he has already built a solid underground following.
Birth, School, Work, Death is nothing short of a masterpiece. With its release Hyro da Hero will be taking the music world by storm. Those who have followed him all along will not be disappointed and those who are new to his music will be thoroughly delighted.