"... when I asked for assistance I got Vox. He and I were destined to connect, so I don't even question the circumstances."
The opening song on RA Scion's latest album Sharper Tool; Bigger Weapon, called “Passage To Trascience,” is six minutes of profundity, determined self-love, and spiritual motivation. It might be a bit too positive if it hadn’t just been tested and proven by real circumstance. Previously titled Sickle And The Sword, the album gained instantaneous and unanimous acclaim, then—just prior to its release—it was shelved. Due to last minute bureaucracy, RA was unable to see what he called his greatest work since Tobacco Road (words I agree with) come to fruition.
I asked RA if he was worried during this time. “Was I worried? No. I'm a man of faith and I trust in The Way; when I asked for guidance I got it, and when I asked for assistance I got Vox. He and I were destined to connect, so I don't even question the circumstances."
RA’s ability to take his own advice, to stand by what he raps despite all the troubles, puts a stamp of authenticity on his work that most records (hiphop or otherwise) lack. RA realized he retained copyright of the the vocals and writing part of his works, so not long after things fell apart he put out a call to producers to re-work those songs. Vox Mod was one of among many answering the call, and it didn’t take long for the job of producer to become his entirely.
“I actually haven't heard the original album,” Vox Mod told me. “and in fact, I'm happy that's the case for the sole purpose of discovering the synergy between RA's aesthetics and my aesthetics—it resulted in something new. To me, it feels like a necessary and welcomed transformation. That also afforded me to pursue my own intuitions and not feel influenced/pressured in any other way. I'm thankful to work with a musician like RA who trusts our collaboration in creating a new language together.”
Vox Mod put the right spin on what RA Scion has been after: Sharper Tool; Bigger Weapon is a hip hop album which doesn’t limit itself to prototypical hip-hop ideas.
RA Scion is a human thesaurus at this point in his rap career. There is a well-traveled open-mindedness about his dense rhyme schemes that escape typical trappings and establishes new landscapes. Vox Mod keeps a spacious, warm feeling that cultivates that landscape. Tracks like “Opalescent Jetsam” grow into a positive barrier against all things captious, and Sharper Tool; Bigger Weapon —however incorporeal in spirit— quickly becomes as incontrovertible as the dirt beneath your feet. Vox Mod is finding a good foothold in hip hop, blending his music with more genre-related beats in tracks like “Plush Portal Stylings”, and RA Scion shows some of his own vision using Blake Lewis (yeah, the dude that sang Bon Jovi on American Idol) in the stunning “Venus in Transit”. Tracks like like “Holly & Oak (Again & Again)”still have hooks after their original name, in this case Hoof x Horn, but with Vox Mod at the helm, the vocals fall back into the beat and it actually becomes a better song.
It’s at this point in the album that RA Scion and Vox Mod realize a world of their own. Obbligato electronica dances fluidly with aggressive lyric delivery on “Interceptor”, in which RA announces that by sickle or sword, he’s taking over. Vox coaxes the listener into a state of synesthesia, piano tones twinkle like stars, horns shout the color of the sunset, and RA’s raps stand solid, fibrous, and tough as trees in the forest. Another talent show contestant, Mark Shirtz, adds vocals on “Foreberance”, harmonizing with Vox’s synthesizer; Royce The Choice makes a funky contribution on “Patina Green”, and by the time we arrive at the album's strongest track, “Run One Through,” RA and Vox are not just rapper and producer, but a music-making organism that defies both of their genres.
RA Scion & Vox Mod
At the end of the album RA Scion puts on Romaro Franceswa (Yuk The World) and Greg Cypher (Kung-Foo-Grip). Listening to Sharper Tool; Bigger Weapon, I thought of the last time I saw RA Scion captivate a crowd with just a microphone and DJ Indica Jones. I asked him about his plans to perform the new work: “I do plan to play this new material live—for the release party, that's all we're performing are songs from the album,” he said “after that I'll be adding some of this new stuff into the rotation”. The album will see digital distribution (iTunes, Amazon, Google Play, Spotify) Tuesday, and the release party will be this Thursday, March 20th at Neumo's. He adds: “The live show has always been the reason I make music—I wouldn't ever bother with studio time if it didn't result in stage time. I get hella excited about debuting new material—Thursday's gonna be dope”.