I’ve mentioned Wellington based rapper Name UL (real name Emanuel Psathas) on this blog a few times now [Freddie Gibbs, Jurassic 5]. But both times I’ve glanced over his performance and instead focused on the main act. Dismissing talent this good isn’t really fair, so I’ve decided to review his 2013 EP, Summit, to make up for it.
Summit is a banger. It only features three tracks, but those tracks were enough to make me sit up and pay attention.
…”but I ask questions and what perturbs me is that you don’t get answers, nobody wants to talk about it, this event which changed the entire history of our Country, why aren’t allowed to discuss it? Why aren’t we allowed to ask questions? The moment you do you get a reaction like he gave me, ‘how dare you….how dare you question your government?” – Jesse Ventura
‘Generation Why’ begins with a sample from a Jesse Ventura interview on Fox news, discussing the topic of questioning the government. This phases into a high-pitched scat hook accompanied by some monstrous drumming courtesy of Nick Gaffaney. I’ve gushed about Gaffaney’s abilities a few times when I’ve seen Cairo Knife Fight open for Shihad in the past [2010, 2014] and his work here is no less impressive. His drumming, along with some almost-industrial accompaniment, really help to drive the song forward. Name UL urges his peers to critically question things happening around them and to speak up about important issues.
The next song also begins with a sample, this time discussing the feelings of depression, providing the name ‘Shipwreck’ for the song title. Leroy Clampitt provides ghostly backing vocals while one of my favourite musos, Adam Page lets loose on the saxophone, threading throughout and adding his smooth solos to uplift a song that would otherwise seem quite dark. If the first song was big picture – asking questions and trying to make sense of the world – then this second song addresses the same kind of topics on a personal level.
‘Eclipse’ features shimmering, ephemeral synths juxtaposed against abrasive lyrics. The track features music from Wellington drone duo The Shocking and Stunning and vocals from British electro artist Xela. This song is where Name UL really shines. His rapping is urgent and venomous, poised to spark a revolution..
I like the Summit EP for a number of reasons. I love the aggression and the political undertones reminiscent of punk music – that justified anger for a cause. I like how Name UL has chosen to collaborate with a variety of skilled musicians who noticeably impact the overall sound. I like how he is playing with ideas and unafraid to find new sounds, and how his lyrical content reveals some reflective thoughtfulness.
The EP only has three songs, which seems unusual in a world of hip hop that is jam-packed with long and convoluted mixtapes. It’s quality over quantity, concise and effective. Every song gets introduced with a sample that sets the mood. Together they help create a cohesive theme throughout the EP of inviting the listeners to become more socially conscious. I’m a sucker for that punk approach of speaking up for change, and Name UL has won me over by inciting his listeners to wake up and think.
Summit is available for free download at Bandcamp here.