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Wednesday, May 22, 2019

New Music: The Hell Hole Store (Darko the Super & iAlive) - Three the Hard Way



"Jeff Sessions / gave me indigestion / because he's bad for your health / no question" - from track "Godzilla" by The Hell Hole Store


Located somewhere in Philly is The Hell Hole Store. It is a place run by emcees and producers (? can't find producer credits, I know iAlive makes beats) Darko the Super and iAlive, where you can get everything from Lawry's Seasoning to "ornery dromedaries" and rub shoulders with musicians like Open Mike Eagle and Height Koch while fast forwarding through Swordfish like you may have done in middle school.

So that's the premise behind this collaboration, and obviously it's not something to take particularly seriously. I really like iAlive, his production is fairly unique and tripped out, sampling psychedelic rock with futuristic electro pop synths to craft beats with a flowing, syrupy weirdness that perfectly suit his laid back style of rapping. He's also got a fairly awesome singing voice that lends a sense of completeness to most of his better songs, as well as those made by his peers like kidDEAD and Cody Cody Jones (fka Stillborn Identity).

Darko the Super I don't know much about. I've never heard any of his solo work. I will say he's got a definite lyrical proficiency with an emphasis on content, stylistically a bit like a cross between Coolzey and the aforementioned fellow shopper Open Mike Eagle. Both Darko and iAlive have some pretty classic lines on this tape, often funny in ways that catch you by surprise (see above).

These two artists do sound good as a pair as well and while I can't speak to the effect this collaboration has on Darko, iAlive is certainly taking himself less seriously and letting his mind wander more than on his earlier material. Punchlines abound, with famous names, brands, movies, shows, restaurants, anything is for sale and subject to deconstruction and renovation during these songs, also spiked with standard rap braggadocio and punk sensibilities. They do go everywhere,  and often nowhere. However, they are fun in an era where if a musician wants there is plenty to be angry / sad / frightened about. Can't fault anyone for wanting to get zany and hoping you won't mind laughing a bit in the car going somewhere you don't want, or taking a break from the ever more depressing news.

This being The Hell Hole Stores third exhibition, it's natural to compare it to it's earlier outings and that's where I feel like this tape falls a bit behind. With the exception of the single with OME "I'll Take What I Can Get" which stands out both production wise and overall, most of these songs kinda flew by me without making too much of an impression. I didn't feel that way about their previous album Return to the Hell Hole Store, which was definitely good. This one felt a bit rushed, didn't have the catchy hooks and beats that I was hoping for.

Honestly I wish that we heard a bit more of iAlive's singing. I really like his voice, and throwing in a sing-alongable hook every few songs wouldn't hurt the sound of this tape at all. It would certainly give it a more standout quality in what is becoming a sea of nerd x art + comedy rap albums following the success of the now (insert whatever the word is that's "thrice" but for four) mentioned Open Mike.

So it may not be a glowing recommendation, but understand that when iAlive spoke on this project he said it was a comedic outing, and not like his solo work. This is supposed to be fun music, and expecting an album of the year from a tape like this simply isn't fair. iAlive on his own is often very good, and from what I hear of Darko he has the talent that could shine with the right songwriting. So, if you've never visited The Hell Hole Store, start with the self titled debut or especially Return to the Hell Hole Store. If you like those give this one a chance.


Get Three the Hard Way as a digital download, or support what seems to be a dope label and get it on the tape it was clearly meant to be here.

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