November 19, 2014

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Tosten Burks is often mistaken for Alec Burks and Trey Burke

Apologies to Lucki Eck$, but Supa Bwe is Chicago’s weirdest Xanax addict. The eponymous debut EP from Hurt Everybody—the trio Supa helms with 18-year-old time wrinkler Carl and cloud-obliterating producer Mulatto—stabbed into the cold universe this July draped in Egyptian mythology, Joanna Newsome samples, and gold. Material desires become “goddesses,” nasally vocoder hooks moan like they’re stuck in solitary confinement, and pastoral strings dance with trap bass lines. Hoes learn judo, vixens wander, and warrior bitches get slain. What is the strange “mahjik” to which Supa constantly refers, in his soaring upper register? What does he see in the future, and why the persistent reminders of that superpower? To clears things up, on “Scratched” he submits as a “thesis” the following: “Put a bull in a glass shop/And listen to every sequence.” The tape befuddles and bangs.

It is here worth mentioning that Carl’s sleek poetry (“The tides sing a silent tune/Of I and U, and other vowels”) vitally balances the dramatic wails, as do the other collaborators (Mick Jenkins, Alex Wiley, Roosevelt the Titan, Khori4) who guest throughout Supa’s metric ton of Soundcloud output this year. Meanwhile Magic City EP presents Supa all by his lonesome, unbridled, unprotected. That vulnerability reveals itself immediately. “Bury me under the moon/Bury me next to the stars,” goes the project’s opening line. Things don’t get brighter, but they do confirm Supa as an ascendant extraterrestrial.

https://soundcloud.com/supabwe/sets/magic-city-ep-1

Over eight songs, populated sparsely by horror synths in minor key, unnervingly choppy snare, and enough open space to lose sight of Earth, Supa hunts dreams, checks trees for snakes, parlays with priests, and continues yelling about the future. The barely tonal, hyper hollow “Planet Magic” echoes coldly like a cave on the outskirts of Hoth—perhaps a clue into the location of Planet Magic? All we really know is that because he’s not flexing, Supa has magic, and because you’re still flexing, you don’t. As headlights streak by, “Ice Cold (Eyes Closed)” drips with similarly lethargic menace, coughs of skittering hi-hats intertwined with the beep of a flat lined heart rate. The lone collab with Carl, “Closed Books,” flips Donny Hathaway’s “Jealous Guy,” famously sampled on Chance the Rapper’s “Juice,” into something decidedly more disgusting and cool, clipped falsetto loops clashing with the rest of the overlayered mess, while Carl brags about plagiarizing the driest raisins.

And then there’s the seven-and-a-half-minute epic, “Thanos (Jukai Mausoleum) Sushi Lightshow),” in which Supa’s obscure images of despondency and power stretch to their most anthemic extreme. Teleporting around Aokigahara, spilling lean on his shirt and shoes, Supa finds himself longing for Planet Magic’s starry red skies, begging spirits to raise their hands high. A kick drum trades blows with a reverb’d grunt. Metallic synths swirl around the abyss. A marathon of snarled, distorted hooks that somehow justifies its length, this is where Supa’s off-kilter strain of sad robotics feels most threatening to the current android hegemony. Moreover this most pointed attempt to hide, behind a mutant Marvel supervillain manipulating matter and refusing sushi in a suicidal forest 6000 miles away from Chicago, also most reveals the depressed dude behind the curtain.

On the disturbingly slow tempo’d album-closer, “0000 (Red Light),” its measures melting into each other with the type of sloppy Godardian stutter the eminent Adam Wray cited in “Bound 2,” Supa returns home to “preach almighty magic” to all the “faceless mocking jays,” himself haunted by the red moon that knows he’s gold, but burns his core and eats his soul anyway. His dying wish: “Please beam me back up.” Whether he’ll achieve that long-elusive afrofuturist aim, Supa Bwe is definitely rising. All he needs now is a California plug.

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