Gamer Soundtracks: King Pheenix, Best in the World
by Curtis Silver
In the nerdcore hip/hop genre it’s undeniable that a great force of the artists and their fans are gamers. Some more hardcore than others. This gaming attitude permeates into their music, whether directly through lyrics or through tone. In the case of King Pheenix and his latest release B.I.T.W definitely exemplifies that tone. If this album was a video game it would be a first person shooter.
One of the cleanest rappers in the sense of vocal understandability rather than content, King Pheenix delivers a strong performance on this album with the feeling of a slight snarl and gritted teeth. He delivers rhymes with a patient and clear intent, to push the angst and growling inner battles into the listeners realm of imagination. This is an album about fighting personal demons, about survival and about taking the next step in life, which is never easy.
The great thing about King Pheenix and something many people may not realize about many rappers and artists, is that in person he’s a big softie. I’ve had the pleasure of his company at several Nerdapalooza concerts and the guy never has anything less than a smile on his face.
His music is his therapy. Says Pheenix, “This is probably my favorite album I’ve done so far. Its such a love note to music. Such roadblocks for this one too, dealt with wildfires engulfing my town in smoke for almost three months. Trip to look outside and see a veritable Silent Hill every night and day though. Don’t ask how many times I took out Pyramid Head, bad memories. Add on my broken teeth. Pretty much had to deal with it, just cause scraping by was the main need at the time. In the end though, not a damn thing will keep me from my love of hip hop.”
B.I.T.W is about rising up to face the world, destroying rivals and fighting for general survival. The album kicks off with a “Mission Statement” from King Pheenix pretty much explaining in prose the theme of the album. It’s about blazing a trail to his throne, not hiding from the light and standing up, damaged from the battle behind him. That’s verbatim from his words, and by the way B.I.T.W stands for “Best In The World.” While some would interpret that as egotistical, really it’s just a statement of confidence.
With a “heart full of fire” Pheenix kicks the album into high gear with “Mr. Scorpion.” Guitarist Jay Bishop of the Bossfights provides the rock soundtrack on this track. A talented guitarist, Bishop is the first of several high powered guests on the album. Speaking about high powered, Random aka Mega Ran kicks in on the very next track “Waiting for Tomorrow.” Pheenix and Random make a good pair on this track, with a contemplative tone they create one of the best tracks on the album.
Fellow Scrubclub Records (non-profit nerdcore label) artists HDninja join Pheenix on the track “Open Sky” which may as well be it’s own storyboard for a video game (though it’s mostly about the cult favorite show Firefly. The Scrubclub collaboration doesn’t end there, as Dale Chase & Scrubclub matador MadHatter contribute on “Bottle It” and “B.I.T.W.” respectively. Also, it should be noted that several tracks (“Dream (Awake)”, “Open Sky”) were expertly mixed and produced by Untested Methods, another member of the Scrubclub family. The tracks “B.I.T.W.” and “Fighter” were mixed by Pelicaine.
King Pheenix’s B.I.T.W. is a very smooth and pointed hip/hop album. The backing music supports his lyrical styling while never overwhelming the listener. If you are spending the evening blasting noobs online in Battlefield 3, B.I.T.W. is the perfect hip/hop album to have on in the background. The subject matter might not be for everyone as it does deal with personal struggles rather than some of the normal nerdcore subject matter such as video games & comics. The thing to remember is that King Pheenix is an independent artist on a non-profit label. So the album is free to download and appreciated by Pheenix.
“Everyone who downloads and listens to this, thank you. And I hope you love it as much as I did making it.”
Images: Scrubclub Records