There's never been a shortage of refined and lyrically dominant emcees in New York. Recently, however, it just feels like you have to look a little bit harder to find them. That's why projects like Gabe 'Nandez' Seven deserve to be heard, on repeat, until the lyrics are burned into your frontal lobe.
Gritty, gravelly, yet astonishingly polished, 'Nandez is an artist that somehow feels old-school and groundbreaking at the same time. It is in this penchant for juxtapositions that 'Nandez' new project Seven finds its footing; a 20-minute, 7-song offering ranging from garage-sounding, abstract jam sessions ("Dhow") to impatient and hungry battle raps ("Pest"). Any alt-hip-hop fan will feel right at home with the haunting sample choices that are prominent throughout the project. It feels akin to other gritty underground NYC emcees like Hus Kingpin or even the great Ka with just a dash of the vocal presence of the legendary DMX. The comparison doesn't come any closer than with "Darkhorse," a verbal warpath that sees the fiery emcee steamrolling over shuddering Rhodes stabs and boom-bap drums. Armand Hammer's Elucid delivers a stellar guest feature on "Coupé Décalé," a song paying homage to the Ivorian/French dance music of 'Nandez' youth.
Growing up in Tanzania and Haiti before moving to New York at a young age, you can hear the worldly awareness in each bar on the project. "Daggers" is a particularly intrepid cut that showcases the jagged bars of 'Nandez over the left-of-center production of Tony Seltzer and Roper Williams. It's a project that isn't afraid to be itself, just grimy enough to satisfy fans of the New York underground but refined and diplomatic enough to blow the doors off lyrical aficionados.
There's a lot of hunger and pain that seeps through Seven, always muted enough to highlight 'Nandez' pinpoint bars and razor's edge wordplay. For an artist already buzzing in underground scenes throughout the city, the project presents more ammunition for his case to be one of the most underrated and critically acclaimed up-and-comers in the tri-state area.