The new effort from The Antiheroes has complex hip-hop verses and oddly punk-rock cover art.
The old adage says not to judge a book by its cover, and usually that goes for albums, as well. Having said that, we were immediately intrigued by the cover for Modern Day Riot, the latest album from Durham-based rap duo The Antiheroes. It’s a hip-hop album with a cover that looks like it belongs on a punk seven-inch. How can you not love that?
While Modern Day Riot is disappointingly light on Crass samples, it’s still a more-than-solid release. Antiheroes MCs Flex and Sha Prince have ways of combining complex, multi-syllabic rhyme schemes, diverse concepts, and remarkably catchy hooks. The Antiheroes have a clear love of Golden Era hip hop—the album is filled with early ’90s rap samples—but aren’t beholden to it. They’re more than willing to integrate everything from R&B to dark, gothic sounds into the mix.
On “Where It Lives,” they transform a reference to The King’s Speech into an amazing earworm of a hook. “Misery Ave.,” meanwhile, is a dark, haunting song that uses clever metaphors to address some fairly heavy subject matter. Both men also have an almost amazing ability to work with words: they pack too many syllables into each verse, then Tetris them together until it works. This is especially noticeable on the rapid-fire “Ignorant x Arrogant,” and also “Misery Ave.”
The highlight of Riot is almost certainly “Blow Up.” Sha, Flex and guest MC D-Sisive rip a hole in the Canadian rap scene, bemoaning the lack of support for hip hop in this country and calling out rappers who brag about making big money while working day jobs. It’s one of the sharper critiques of the scene to come out in some time, and it manages to come off as sardonic and tongue-in-cheek, rather than bitter. (You can listen to “Blow Up” by clicking on the sample above.)
Over the last two years, The Antiheroes have developed a strong, rapidly growing fan base thanks to their tight verses and willingness to be weird. Modern Day Riot will only help develop that fan base further.