On Ces Cru's new song "Purge," Donnie "Godemis" King and Mike "Ubiquitous" Viglione get more political than they have ever been before. Over a menacing and melodic piano, several voices say things like "friends, family, coworkers — all undocumented" and "it's genocide."
"The idea was to have little rants and mix them in with the piano solo, and it struck a nerve," said King. "We didn’t direct anything. We asked friends and associates of ours to talk about the sociopolitical environment on a global scale, and then people would just talk about what was on their minds. We got everything from the Dakota Access Pipeline to immigration to politics, to the presidential election and domestic violence."
While the artists have been working on the album for a while, they said that they drew inspiration from the presidential election and other events. Even the name of the album is a reference to the collapse of the World Trade Center and the specialists who are appointed to help the nation through crises like that. Other songs on the album focus specifically on police brutality and the current partisan political climate.
"There’s a lot of domestic and political stuff going on," said Viglione. "We talk about police violence and government. Gridlock is the current state of politics and has been for many years. Republicans and Democrats have been working against each other. They block each other, and they can’t work together and make policy."
In addition to politics, lyrics on the new album also touch on the state of hip-hop music today.
"There's this narrative, that lyrics in rap have taken a back seat, but there's always good music out there," said King. "We play with some of the newer sounds and cadences, and there is a critique on the state of hip-hop."
"Mumble rap is kind of in the forefront. It's become poppy-hip-hop," said Viglione. "It’s what’s on the radio, it's pushed and celebrated, but I'm looking for something that feeds my brain a little more."
King also said that the idea of a power relationship between rappers and fans is a problem in the industry.
"You know, I rap really well, but I'm not a 'rap god,'" King said. "I think that’s the wrong relationship, the relationship between us and the fans is that we put out dope music, and y’all agree to buy the music and come to the show. You don't have to praise us, just come out to the show and spread the music and spread the love."
"We met here in Kansas City through a mutual friend of ours, a producer," said Viglione. "We started making music separately. Before we met he [King] was in a group called Ces Cru, and I did some behind the scenes stuff with them for a year, then became a member, and the other members sort of trickled away and we became a duo."
King said that getting signed by the Tech N9ne was a surreal experience.
"I grew up here, and for like two years all you heard going up Paseo and Troost was Tech N9ne," said King. "I was never actually rapping trying to get signed, but he noticed us."
Ces Cru's album Catastrophic Event Specialists is available now.
Caitlin Troutman is an intern for KCUR's Central Standard.