New One Hunnidt Album Admirably Wrestles Cognitive Dissonance

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"As artists, it's like we have the responsibility to paint a certain picture of our own lifestyles. It's almost not allowed to be like, 'Man, my life sucks. I'm sad about this or that.'"

-- One Hunnidt

Three days ago, my fuel pump went out. Now, were I in Houston when it happened, it would have only been mildly irritating. I'd have cursed and I'd have chastised the heavens (standard protocol, really), but then I'd have had it pulled to my house and fixed it there. Easy breezy.

But it didn't happen here. It happened approximately 85 miles north of my home, in sleepy Huntsville, which I think might also be referred to as Satan's Taint, though I couldn't confirm that on GPS. And since it happened there, and since I don't live there, and since God enjoys nothing more than flicking me in the forehead, a mechanical issue that should've taken all of two hours to fix ended up getting stretched out to more than 40.

The whole thing is this ordeal that doesn't really need to be rehashed beyond saying that it involved a seedy motel I'm confident has to have starred as the murder scene in several police investigations, some unreasonably tomato-y Mexican food and a tow-truck driver who might be the mascot for all tow-truck drivers on Earth.

Still, within the fuckery there was a glint of positivity: One Hunnidt. One Hunnidt is a local spoken-word poet and rapper. Last year, he released a mixtape called Legacy of a Legend. Mostly it served as catharsis, an emotionally charged, imperfect rap tape centered around his brother's 2010 murder. It was never really meant for anyone else's ears anyway.

"I made it for me," said One Hunnidt when I interviewed him last year. "It's part of how I dealt with everything. I let some people hear it and they convinced me to put it out."

However, this isn't about that. This is about his latest tape, which I'd uploaded to my phone two or so weeks ago and which became essential listening these past few days as I sat in a mechanic's shop and wordlessly tried to convince my heart to not stop beating.

This past May, One Hunnidt released Keep It 100, a follow-up to Legacy that's no real follow-up at all.

Where Legacy built its ethos up from the ashes of tragedy, KI100 is rooted in rejuvenation.

It is a smart, well-balanced, bold effort, and easily the best (and first, probably) representation of the intellectual conundrum One Hunnidt has spied in his station.

What that means: One Hunnidt has a sullen flow, almost reluctant. He's never fully overpowering in delivery. And with Legacy, it seemed like it was little more than a natural impediment nurtured into consistency by unpleasant circumstances that became tolerated as normal (picture a basketball player who can't jump very high because his knees are wrecked).

Here, though, 100 largely does away with that particular heartbreaking narrative. His hesitancy is painted as a creative decision, as with a basketball player who chooses to play low to the ground because it affords him the best chance to win, which is considerably more fulfilling.

Nowhere on the album is this clearer than in its opening moments.

On track number two, the regionally spectacular "No Place Like Home," an amalgam of Southern colloquialisms and swagger, and track number three, "Walking Off a Cliff," a seven-minute existential bruiser, his mouth is barely convinced to move, words falling out in spite of themselves.

He sounds eternally disappointed with the existence of most humans ("Where I'm born, the poorest people still be driving fancy cars") but can't, with good conscience, remove himself from the hypocrisy ("I swear I say I want a wife but end up choosing no-good broads"). And that internal debate permeates throughout the tape.

There are grand gestures (the aggro "Unfckwitable," the bombastic and aptly titled "Overload") and there are expected platitudes (the back-patting "Salute You," which sees the showman Doughbeezy stroll right the fuck across everyone's face), but in 100's best moments, One Hunnidt either a) wrestles with cognitive dissonance freely and publically, or b) bares his hurt in grand fashion (see "Father's Day," a brutal first-person dissertation on absentee fathers). And there are more of those instances than any others.

Download it. Discuss it.

And keep an eye on your fuel pumps. Because fuck that shit, yo.

Follow Rocks Off on Facebook and on Twitter at @HPRocksOff.

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