Thug Workout 104: Non Phixion’s The Future Is Now

Thug Workout 104: Non Phixion’s The Future Is Now

Week 3 Day 4: (Venus ¾)

Stage 1 – 50 x Pushups, 25 x Situps, 50 x Squats
Stage 2 – 50 x Pushups, 25 x Situps, 50 x Squats
Stage 3 – 50 x Pushups, 25 x Situps, 50 x Squats

It was the last day of week four and unsurprisingly, having woke up in a heap still fully clothed from the night before, my back was more fucked than the Greek economy. I keep saying now that I’m working out harder than ever before I’m going to cut back on drinking / late nights (or as I like to call it having a life) but then I realised I’d be one of those Instagram wankers who posts a picture of something fairly innocuous like a piece of cheese on toast and hashtags it “Cheat Day”

Well I say fuck those guys… and girls. If you’re only working out to make your body more aesthetically pleasing to vacuous mono-syllabs who spend half their life worrying about what shoes Kanye West is wearing you may as well just end it all now and bury yourself in an organic, low-carb flavourless box. Or start working for Urban Outfitters.

Exercise is merely a conduit for unveiling your subconscious creativity via occupying the front of your mind with banal and repetitive tasks (like pushups).

There’s a reason the majority of champion bodybuilders aren’t also lauded theorists or creative mavericks; because the task in hand literally requires them to endlessly repeat the same basic, heathenistic movements whilst shovelling more protein than the bloke who scrapes all the dead poultry out of the cell blocks a Bernard Matthews. A monkey could literally do this shit.

… In saying that the 150 pushups this workout required nearly fucking killed me. Cést la vie.

Listening To: Non Phixion’s The Future Is Now (2002)

It was the 12th anniversary of the release of one of my favourite hip-hop albums of all time today so, although I promised myself I was going to start reviewing some contemporary music, I actually decided to sack it off and buss out a classic instead.

When Non Phixion’s The Future Is Now first dropped I was about fourteen. Opening with Futurama, an urgent and paranoid anthem that sits atop Necro’s instantly recognisable blend of crusty, straight-up East Coast styled boombap drums and ornate, cinematic orchestration I was (as a wee lad) blown away. To be fair having not checked in on this album in a good couple of years I still am. Anyway forget nostalgia, a review should focus on how a creation functions in its current time and place, not how it functions through rose tinted spectacles. (Although some awareness of cultural and stylistic mores of the time is needed too)

Futurama basically lays out the frequently frenetic, overblown and paranoid pace of the record perfectly. It’s a stunning opener and everything else rolls from here.

Throughout overt drug references and deranged tales of killer cyborgs, political assassinations and obscure celebrity references abound. These are more or less the cornerstones of the Non-Phixion style and as someone with an obsessive love of film their cinematic touchstones resonate perfectly with me.

Drug Music is a surprisingly nimble and varied number replete with some actually rather quaint tinkling piano keys throughout perfectly framing Sabac’s lyrical abilities as the most overtly conscious member crew; he frequently uses a fairly dense but sort of passive cadence and delivery. His flow is akin to Prodigy of Mobb Deep if he wasn’t always talking about putting an ice-pick in the back of your cousin’s skull (but still just as rife with paranoid theories)

This excellent palette cleanser after the bombastic opener is then followed up with The CIA Is Trying To Kill Me, which (again produced by Necro’s talented hand / clenched fist) somehow manages to out-melodrama the ramped up strings and wired paranoid theorising. Ill Bill’s brash baritone and Ghostface styled off-beat delivery absolute decks this one and running around yelling the hook of “I’M PARANOID TELL ME WHAT THE FUCK THEY ASKED YOU?” will never get old.
Following on from this Non-Phixion step into their third key style after those of cinematic, head banging grandeur and psychedelically tinged drug raps with the slightly more reflective style of If You Got Love. A traditional hip-hop posse cut which shows off the razor sharp DMC stylings of their (pretty much constantly slept-on) fourth(ish) member DJ Eclipse.

The record hits a slight slump at this stage with There Is No Future; a lumbering, funk bass led-tune that although in no way a bad track does feature a particularly pants verse from Necro (who can either sound cartoonishly aggressive and stick to a beat like glue or just completely shit with little indication as to whether he has even heard the beat he’s on with little middle ground between the two) and a pointless interlude where their much loved uncle Uncle Howie talks about sexual conquests. None of this is needed.

The momentum is soon brought back to the fore however with the absolutely anthemic Rock Stars produced original don DJ Premier. All three Non-Phixion emcees bring nothing but their A-Game here and it’s a orime showcase for Goretex who, personally, I’ve always thought was Non-Phixion’s secret weapon.

His flow is always extremely controlled and his lyrics regularly feature an almost impenetrable level of bizarre slang and off-key references to (usually) forgotten celebs. Take for instance the line “You light in the wrist, Richard Simmons fro with a pick, taking my record label hostage if they stoppin’ my shit” Threats of mugging, terrorism and 80s self-help gurus all in the oner. Genius / nonsense.

There’s really too much good stuff to cover in this record but, to point out a couple more highlights there’s the eastern styled, height of mid-trip paranoia banger Black Helicopters, which is basically a further exploration of the CIA trying to kill the artists, the supremely helter skelter lyrical barrage of Suicide Bomb (also notable for being a New York centric track about terrorist activities that was literally released mere months after 9/11) and It’s Us; a track the shows again Non-Phixion / Necro as producer’s flare for anthemic, drink spilling choruses.

Technically the album ends on the grandstanding We Are The Future Is which is a typically grandiose outro full of strings pulled straight out a tacky straight to video 70s sci-fi film. It’s also notable for the Ill Bill bar “an exploding Motorola flip” which, in 2016, might genuinely sound like slang or a foreign dialect to anybody under 25 (or over 35 for that matter)

We won’t mention that weird metal remix of The CIA Is Trying To Kill Me on the end of the record because it sounds fucking woeful, particularly with slow death that Nu-Metal has been suffering from more or less since its inception. This odd rap/rock blend is pretty much the only element of The Future Is Now which really shows its age under scrutiny unfortunately, it also became a staple of every release that came out of the Uncle Howie / Psycho Logical records camp for a few years after and they are all pretty much universally shit.

But let’s not end on a downer as there’s not really been anything like this album before or since; it takes in elements of boom-bap and hardcore New York sounds (which you’d expect as the home city of the whole crew) and pushes these into more abstract zones through dense layers of both regional and possibly completely made up slang (a definite crib from the Wu-Tang rule book), paranoid political theories and almost caricatured levels of drug reference / reverence.

It’s probably fair to say that in their own minor way they help lay out the template for the current trend of thugged-out drug raps from fellow New Yorker’s A$AP Mob and (even more directly) Flatbush Zombies.

As to whether anyone actually gives them any credit for that is another matter altogether.

Beats: 10 out of 10 (literally some of the finest of the early 2000s underground sound)
Lyrics: 9 out of 10 (You might need a thesauras and Wikipedia open at all times to fully appreciate but they are ridiculously rewarding)
Thugness: 8 out of 10 (threats and elbows flying all over the gaff)
Chauvenism: 7 out of 10 (Fair bit of disrespect to the ladies popping off)
Geographical Shoutouts: 7 out of 10 (would be a ten if we were only counting New York projects and boroughs)

Lock in next week where I will, honestly, try and review a new record… Or one that’s age is at least not in double figures.

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