Torii MacAdams’ ideal tea party includes Mary Shelley, Lord Byron, and crumpets. Invite Percy, too.
Lord Byron’s a divisive motherfucker. Last June, Mel of The Outfit, TX, penned an overview of Dallas’ burgeoning rap scene and Lord Byron didn’t garner so much as an honorable mention. In October, Dallas Observer, Dallas’ alternative weekly of note, nominated the hermetic rapper for both “Best Album” and “Best Rap/Hip-Hop Act.” In response, Lord Byron tweeted “don’t vote for Byron on either of his DOMA [Dallas Observer Music Awards] nominations, he’ll just end up doing something unexpected and scary.” He didn’t win either award.
Self-abnegation isn’t an oft-exercised part of Lord Byron’s online persona (if it’s a persona). He is, in turns, radically pro-black, outlandishly self-aggrandizing, and surprisingly reverent for bygone eras of art and rap. His inner multitudes are brash and challenging. It should come as no surprise, then, that his album Digital Crucifixion was one of last year’s most dense, challenging projects.
Something about Digital Crucifixion feels like Byron’s treading on unexplored, or underexplored, territory. There’s a hint of Busdriver in Byron’s rejection of accepted song structures, and he’s unafraid of dissonant, crepitating, cold textures. The interplay of Byron and the album’s most avant-garde instrumentals are like the fleeting glimpses between subway cars on parallel tracks. They’re together, then they’re not. Had these moments constituted the entirety of the album, it would’ve made for an exhausting listen. As they are, songs like “posh,” “i.m. pei,” and “marble.mp4” present snapshots of rap-as-art, or rap-as-design.
When Jeff “Passion of the” Weiss first heard Lord Byron, he compared the Dallasite to Styles P. It’s surprisingly apt–despite Byron’s Southern roots, he has the voice of a be-Carhartt’d ‘n’ ACG’d Brooklynite. Byron’s simultaneous pulls toward experimentation and traditionalism meet somewhere near a point called “Ka.” He’s yet to master the box cutter-clutching, hoodie-hiding reclusive calmness of Ka–has anyone?–but there’s a similar interest in minimalist instrumentals and chain-linked, cascading lyrics.
It seems that there are a few things holding Lord Byron back: Dallas’ relative isolation from mainstream music media, his understandable reluctance to prostrate himself before said media, and his aforementioned relatively opaque public persona. The Outfit, TX, Dallas’ biggest rappers since Dorrough, have released three albums and a collaborative EP, and they’re just starting to get traction. Lord Byron likely faces a similar uphill climb. His narrative is that there is no narrative; speaking through one’s art is the correct choice, but it lacks an easily latched onto gimmick like that of his fellow Dallasite (and subject of ire) Post Malone. Digital Crucifixion was an auspicious, ambitious debut. It’s a shame so few people heard it.