This is not suitable for a Monday morning. It’s probably not suitable for any morning. The Devil’s Harbinger seethes with a condemned fury that you’d expect from its name and title. A few months ago, The Devil hit me up to explain his latest project. Prior to donning his new nom de doom, he was known best on the streets of ATL as a manager for several of the city’s biggest rap stars. I’m not sure what happened to trigger this shift and I don’t think he could explain it either. He wasn’t trying to self-promote but rather to convey some vision of a blood and powder-hypnotized, East Atlanta heart of darkness.
This is not the work of an insane person, but the work of someone who believes that everything he sees is insane. We throw around the word “reality rap” without any context or real gravity attached to the term. Rapping about trapping and everyday torture doesn’t necessarily make something reality. Everyone’s reality is different. For me, reality is conveying a sense of desperation — the idea that this life is fleeting — for some much more so than others. The best trap music isn’t powerful because it celebrates an outdoor black marketplace, but because it portrays what it’s like to be stuck. Harbinger is the trap as tar pit– real hells turned abstract, and made real again. The “Trap Going Ham” video, which the Devil was a part of, touched a raw nerve several years ago because it brought these grim truths to YouTube. World Star shows stuff like that everyday. But circumstances often gain a new power when they’re split up and given new surroundings.
This is what Harbinger and the videos that The Devil has released seem to represent. Charles Manson going ham and Buddhist monks immolating themselves exist side by side with raw raps from Alley Boy and the 808 Mafia. If you wanted to hear an album where Future was paired with the real Freeway Ricky Ross, this is the only place you’ll find it. The videos are edited to cause epileptic fits. They are fast and frenetic slide shows of violence and addiction. The music is heavy and bludgeoning. The vibe is a Southern Gothic where no one gets out alive. There are six parts to the project: Love, Drugs, ??????, Violence, Betrayal, Rage. It’s Bosch crossed with baseheads.
This put together with great care but very little caution. Harbinger is best consumed as a complete project — videos, songs, and the website, One Thousand Thieves. It has no home in the landscape of contemporary rap. It neither celebrates the perils of the street nor condemns it. It aspires for more than just a straight-forward depiction. You might not like it, but it will stick in your skull longer than almost anything else you see this week or month or whenever. This is the opposite of the belief that the “Devil’s greatest trick was convincing the world he didn’t exist.”
ZIP: The Devil – Harbinger (Left-Click)