Will Schube never learned how to jimmy the locks.
When Hellfyre Club released 2013’s Dorner Vs. Tookie, a label sampler that featured tracks from Nocando, milo, Busdriver, Open Mike Eagle, and more, it seemed like the start of many exciting things to come. It turns out, the album served as both a prologue and an epilogue. Hellfyre Club in this iteration fizzled soon after.
Along with this, Nocan—real name James McCall—split from his house gig as resident MC at Low End Theory, the most important weekly show in LA. Oh yeah, his marriage ended too. But like all great artists, McCall has turned this tumult into creative expression, and his first full-length since 2014 will be out May 26th.
On The Impatient EP’s standout track, “Discard My Arms,” Nocando raps, “I guess a relationship is something you can sever and bend.” But what happens when that sever snaps? Fast forward thirteen years, and the answer finally crystallizes. “Severed” is the first single on Nocan’s new album—also titled Severed—and features Jimetta Rose and Dream Panther on vocals. Nocan sounds meditative and poignant, if not haunted by lament and regret.
“It’s all my fault/And I’m not being sarcastic,” he begins.
When McCall’s at his best—which he is so often is—he’s mixing scathing critiques aimed at everyone with equally penetrating inward analysis—the result a fresh blend of introspection and wit. As his career progresses, the one time battle champion has elevated his songwriting ability immeasurably, and “Severed” is as strong as anything he’s ever done. During the chorus—accented by pummeling low end bass courtesy of Elusive’s production—Nocan observes: “I guess we did not know the roles that we’re made to play.” This sentiment can apply to any of the aforementioned aspects of his life. Hell, anyone’s life. But you keep going. And Nocando has. Even if he’s a little bit severed.