Hip-Hop may have had a complicated birth, the product of the street corners and community centres of a down on its fortunes South Bronx, but of late, it seems to have become a shadow of its former self. In place of the pioneers of the scene who lived the life, they were putting into their rhymes, on of hustle and hassle, danger and division, a new type of artist seems to have emerged. They might claim to be the inheritors of those early pioneers, rapping about their life on the streets, the edge, the game, the danger. But how authentic can they be living, as they all too often do, with their parents in suburban Connecticut, working on their college degrees and collecting trolleys at Walmart on weekends to top up their allowance?
I say this to emphasise how different Agon is from the usual run of the rap mill. Agon, however, offers more realistic lyrical options. His message is more philosophical, more about the realities of life, its highs and lows, it’s ebb and flow. There isn’t an AK 47 in sight, no talk of “haters,” no playing the victim, no clubs, no bottles of Cristal, no whining about how the system is against him, no self-aggrandisement and no misogynistic sideswipes.
Across 12 songs, he lays out and reinforces these positive messages over heavy, confident beats and all manner of middle-ground sounds, from brass salvos to twinkling pianos, skittering percussion and ambient electronica, drifting sonics and digitally sculpted soundscapes. But it is the lyrics which are the real turning point here, a step towards the light, a way out of the ghetto.
It’s almost as if he is trying to usher in a new way of doing things. One built on positivity, ambition, achievement, finding the silver linings, and healthy attitudes. Knock most rappers to the floor, and they get up and write an album that essentially waxes lyrical about how sorry they feel for themselves. You knock Agon to the floor, and he gets up, having learned something important and uses the experience to improve his life. Doesn’t that sound like a positive way to live?