Up North Tip: Isosceles – Face the Music (1998)

Isosceles is a rap trio hailing from–as I’m sure everyone knows–the hip-hop hotbed of Saskatchewan, Canada. Now, here’s an interesting anecdote about the group’s name. Two of the members, emcee Shrimp a.k.a. Agape and disc-jockey Scratchafras are twin brothers. The second emcee, Boya D., is unrelated. Thus an isosceles triangle is formed, as they are two of the same and one different. Clever, right?

After two EPs, the group released their debut album in 1998, titled Face the Music. The music has a fairly unique sound, which I’m sure is exactly what they were going for. I have not listened to this record enough times to write a completely comprehensive review, but from what I’ve heard so far I kind of dig it. Not to focus too much on their ethnicity but the rappers are clearly white by their sound, and for a record like this that’s not a bad thing at all–rather, it adds a kind of credibility to their songs. They are who they are; these aren’t posers. The lyrics are intelligent, often poetic and well thought-out. But make sure you listen to their flows with an open-mind. It’s nothing otherworldly different but it might take some getting used to.

For me, one of the best parts of the album has to be the production. From the opening instrumental track “I Once Knew You,” to “Clean Slate,” “Livin’ In Rekord” and “Bio Organic Youth (feat. Ancient),” the production contains an array of ambient and contemplative jazz samples, soulful drums, and additional layers of esoteric vocal samples that add color to each song. The scratching on this album is also very nice to listen to.

Sample Tracks:

So, again I will be posting samples via Youtube links (aside from one song) because DivShare is being a major pain in the ass right now. I have yet to renew my premium account so I suppose it’s insinuating I should do so. By freezing Mozilla whenever I try to upload a song… Cot dayum.

Isosceles – “I Once Knew You”

Isosceles – “Living On Rekord”

Isosceles – “The Voice in My Silence (’97 Dusty as Antique Mix)

Isosceles – “Finder’s Keep (feat. Intellect)”

Isosceles – “All I Got”

Track list:

01 I Once Knew You 4:27

02 Clean Slate ‘98 5:48

03 All I Got (feat. Moka Only) 3:49

04 Hate To See You Go 4:46

05 The Goalend Rules 3:54

06 Open Wounds 3:25

07 Boremeta the Felt 2:30

08 Jail Break (Growing Pains of Freedom) 5:21

09 $pare Change 3:48

10 Bio. Organic. Youth. Ancient. 2:05

11 The Telepathic Triplet 4:10

12 Living on Rekord 3:44

13 Dream Big 3:13

14 The Free Trunk 2:16

15 On A Whim…. 1:26

16 Finder’s Keep – Thinking Fast 6:08

17 The Voice in My Silence (’97 Dusty As Antique Mix) 3:36

18 You Once Knew Me 3:25

I used to live in Saskatoon for four years as a kid, the same city Isosceles is from, and I can safely say that for anyone to spend the majority of their life in that city and still drop an album this good is something that deserves recognition. The land is completely flat. The city is built on Western Canadian prairie that, once frozen or blanketed in snow, never melts until spring–sludge-filled spring at that. The winters often dip well into the minus-30s and 40s (degrees Celsius). Black people are scarce–hell, there isn’t even a formal Chinatown. My grade seven teacher spent his summers and winter holidays tending his family farm (on the outskirts of town) for eighteen hours a day, reading novels on his tractor as he drove through acres upon acres of vast and desolate agricultural land. But believe it or not, there is civilization and modern housing built on these prairies, and a city does in fact exist. I know, right?

I’m exaggerating of course. I make it sound like No Man’s Land, but Saskatoon is actually quite nice. Not a bad place by any means–I definitely enjoyed my stay and it marked an important turning point for my family–but finding local hip-hop gems in the post-2000 world of synths on steroids is like looking for a needle in a hay stack. Thank God for the Internet. And yes, some of my old friends are Rihanna fans.

All in all, Isosceles’ Face the Music is a good debut and definitely worth a listen. Not everyone’s cup of tea I’m sure, but if you give it a chance you might find yourself pleasantly surprised, and rewarded. I don’t think the artists would want it any other way.

Note: Props to dalek at the Official Canadian Hip-Hop Thread on Philaflava for bringing this album and group to my attention, as well as the Beatbox Radio Show blog for the original rip. Enjoy, and let me know what you guys think.


— Teddy C.D.

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