2012 may already be under wraps, but I wanted to make sure to take the opportunity to give recognition to one more release from what turned out to be one of the better years for rap music in the last decade. Cliff Of Death is a collaborative EP between North Carolina rapper Deniro Farrar and Thoughts on Tracks favorites Blue Sky Black Death. While Cliff Of Death is only a seven song EP, it is without a doubt one of the best track-for-track releases of the year.
I’ve only been vaguely familiar with Farrar’s music to this point, but it didn’t take long for him to win me over with his chilling performance throughout Cliff Of Death. Street rap is typically associated with testosterone-fueled bragging, however BSBD manages to draw emotional performances from the artists that they work with, and this EP is no exception. Right from the start with “Just In Case The World Ends” Farrar makes his perspective clear, he’s constantly trying to understand and outrun his troubled past: “Took my charge cuz the pack was mine / locked in a cell counting down the time / dropped out of school told momma all the time / that I’d go get saved but I’m always lying”.
On the almost autobiographical “This is it” Farrar plainly raps “sixteen years old I was on the block / fuck an education I was selling rocks / seventeen I bought an AK-47 / then they killed my n**** Cory hope he up in heaven…I ain’t have a childhood never played with toys / Momma did all she could but I made a choice”. Farrar’s honesty does more than just provide the perfect complement to BSBD’s contemplative production, it paints a vivid picture of what’s become an all too common modern American coming of age tale. While he may have “made a choice” it’s unfortunate that the bad choices he made were so available to him.
Farrar sounds downright soulful on “Pain” and “Can’t Take It With Me When I Die.” “Pain” features a smokey blues backdrop from BSBD and vocals from Deniro that demonstrate how his paranoia and stress have helped push him towards success. “Can’t Take It With Me When I Die” feels like the calm after the storm. It provides Farrar the opportunity to reflect on the lifestyle that brought him to the here, from an outside perspective of success: “Dropped out of school and I became a felon quick / Momma told me watch those n****s I was hanging with / I was hard headed couldn’t nobody tell me shit / all young n****s I’m a tell you this / there ain’t no love on these streets it’s a hit or miss / half the n****s selling dope never get rich / they wind up dead or in the pen now that’s that real shit.” The redemptive sound of “Can’t Take It With Me When I Die” might be a strange way to end an EP titled Cliff Of Death, but makes sense considering the emotional content of the project and ends up being an incredibly refreshing closer.
Even on songs like “Danger” and “You Ain’t A G” which sound more like traditional street bangers, Farrar’s straightforward style merges with Blue Sky Black Death’s custom tailored soundscapes to create something unique. “Hold Me Down” has the one guest feature in Nacho Picasso, and while it can stand alone as one of the best (or at least the most fun) songs from the project, it does sound a little out of place on an EP filled with introspective, confessional songs. Regardless, Cliff Of Death is easily one of my favorite EP’s of the year; a project that has simultaneously put anything with Deniro Farrar’s name on it on my radar and cemented Blue Sky Black Death as my producers of 2012. Pick up Cliff Of Death for $7 at Bandcamp.