Friday, August 23, 2002
Sudden Rush came to the forefront as cutting-edge Hawaiian rappers and Sovereignty song activists with the release of their outstanding album, "Ku'e," in 1997. Five years later, their follow-up is equally impressive.
The title track is excellent political rap performed in Hawaiian as well as English. The theme? Hawaiians must regain the nation that was stolen from them in 1893.
Several other songs also present new ideas in Hawaiian-language rap. Others fall into the familiar realm of Jawaiian/"island music," with the familiar Jamaican rhythms and Jawaiian posing. On the other hand, reggae-rhythm songs like "Irie Eyes" and "Messenjah's" may get Sudden Rush play in local radio stations too timid to air the more progressive and innovative material.
More important than that for music buyers, the least innovative songs here are still better than most of the other Jamaican-style music that's been released to date in 2002. In their use of Hawaiian-language rap and hip hop, Sudden Rush is unmatched - and culturally important.
As with the recent albums by Fiji, O-shen, Chief Ragga, and Konishiki, guest artists abound. Amy Hanaiali'i Gilliom guests on "Messenjah's" and "Ride Through Paradise." The latter is an imaginative urban/
rap song that uses an uncredited interpolation of the 1985 Mary Jane Girls hit, "In My House," as a melodic hook.
"Can You See Me Now" interpolates Jon & Randy's 1981 Hoku-winning composition, "Hawaiian Eyes," as it honors Hawaiian musical pioneers (and Bob Marley), with an assist from Dr. Jon Osorio (Randy Borden died in 1997). A vintage recording of Gabby Pahinui embellishes the Sudden Rush version of "Hi'ilawe." Both of these songs add cultural messages to the album.
Sudden Rush excels at rap, and the most noteworthy and potentially explosive piece of all pops up after 61 seconds of dead air in "Pautro," the final listed track. Sudden Rush uses the "ghost track" to contemptuously dismiss "haters," local groups that play the "same old beat, same old skank, same old song" music, radio stations that play remakes, and everybody who plays or records remakes: "If you only do remakes you just a karaoke singer."
The irony is that few local record producers have appeared to be more into the whole "same old skank" Jawaiian remake scene than Rush's own "Radical Rob" Onekea, through his ties to KCCN/FM100 and particularly the FM100 "Pride Of The Islands" compilations. For a beneficiary of the Jawaiian remake/"island music" scene to repudiate it so forcefully suggests that Onekea and his articulate cohorts - Don "King Don 1" Ke'ala Kawa'auhau Jr., Caleb "Da Reddeye" Richards and Shane "Kid Dynomite" Viencent - are willing to burn bridges and make new enemies in their commendable campaign to promote Hawaiian-language rap and reggae, and take an original style of true island music to the national audience.
And so they inform the perpetrators of Hawaii's current "island music" scene: "If this ... offends you, then it's you we're talking about."
Count "Ea" is one of the year's most important local albums, and add Sudden Rush to the very short list of innovators on the local scene in 2002.
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Song Roots Radical
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See Record Reviews for some past reviews.
See Aloha Worldwide for locals living away.
John Berger, who has covered the local
entertainment scene since 1972, writes reviews of recordings
produced by Hawaii artists. See the Star-Bulletin's Today
section on Fridays for the latest reviews.