I saw Sadistik for the first time a few weeks ago opening for Cage. As a Seattle artist, he’s not someone who makes it to my neck of the Northeast very often, if ever. He was sort of what I had always pictured him to be: a capable artist with a nimble tongue, but who relies pretty heavily on what sometimes feels like a forced, sentimental melancholy. This can take on various tones, some which are more successful than others. His early work with Kid Called Computer and his LP The Balancing Act were huge favorites of mine. He managed to do something that only a handful of rappers have done successfully – take me to a place where I felt emotional and empathetic in a very honest and beautiful way. Oddly enough, his more celebrated Flower’s For My Father did not sit as well with me. It had incredible beats from many of my favorite producers, great artists for its guest spots and two very close and personal deaths (that of his father as the title suggests, and that of his friend Michael “Eyedea”Larsen) to draw upon for material. However, perhaps due to having too much surrounding him, Sadistik’s flow seemed weak by comparison.
It was against the backdrop of Flowers that Ultraviolet fell into the hands of this reviewer. By simply seeing the artwork and reading the press release, it was clear that this album was a departure. The first track is entitled “Cult Leader” and sets the tone of the record as conceptual psychedelia that flies in the face of the autobiographical approach he took on the last record. Here, he spits an almost schizophrenic flow fueled by freedom to create whatever dystopian scenario that comes to his mind. The psychedelic cyberpunk aesthetic that’s established here carries throughout the record.
“1984” is an apparent homage to the world created by George Orwell’s novel of the same name. Sadistik envisions himself as a character in the story and describes his time living in Oceania. Perhaps what is more noticeable is what is not dealt with on this track. Rather than delve into the political theme of the book, which is the development of Big Brother style governments, he shies away from polemics. Instead he deals with the setting and characters in from the book. Lines such as “I sit inside my prison like I’m Winston with the gin, to scribble my addictions, or I’ll kill ‘em with the pen. Figurative or literal, i’ll stick it in the femoral, this devil won’t ever fall victim to the trend” do much to prove that he is familiar with the text and he drops a multitude of references that span the most highly regarded works of fact or fiction. However, he rarely offers much deep insight into how such references serve to develop his thesis. Often they just seem forced in and fail to enhance his flow or verbiage.
The tracks that follow on the record have more of the same to offer. Often forced, referenced laced wordplay gives way at times to moments of hazy introspection of a nauseous indifferent antichrist. It is at these times the record is at it’s best. My personal favorite track “Gummo” took me to the raw tooth-grinding mornings after a coke binge where paranoia and sandpaper anxiety make the morning disquieting and simultaneously mildly terrifying. If you don’t know what that’s like, I’d suggest you listen to the track. You’ll either recognize it, or should find yourself grateful that you don’t.
Beat-wise, most of the record remains along the lines of what we saw on Flowers. Despite the absence of Cunninlynguists’ producer Kno or Blue Sky Black Death, both of whose trademark aesthetics set the tone of the previous record, the production here remains ethereal, painting dreamscapes with sounds and percussion. Kid Called Computer is back, and Maulskull, Eric G and SXMPLELIFE do their best to keep the essence that made the previous LP such a success. It’s interesting that they fit the mood of the material on both albums seeing that the previous one was dealing with depression and this one with madness. Perhaps bridging the gap between the two will eventually prove to be Sadistik’s trademark.
In addition to the production, the guest spots are another bright spot here. The Eyedea verse on “Chemical Burns” is perfectly placed on a song that comes across conflicted and manic, putting him in the company of the likes of 2Pac. Michael Larsen is an artist’s whose posthumous lyrics are as strong as those he was putting out during the peak of his career. Nacho Picasso and Tech N9ne also appear and offer highlight wordplay. This record lacks the likes of a Cage or Ceschi, both of whom tend to channel vulnerability, which is likely strategic as instead he chooses lyricist who are more horror/psychopathic in aura.
Ultraviolet may be exactly the record that Sadistik needed to make. It expands the scope of him as an artist and begins to make him worthy of the license he takes discussing part of the mind that his brand of indie rappers often flirt with, but rarely dive into in such a cavalier fashion. It’s a brave and bold move, yet the experiment doesn’t fully work. At times there is full on psychosis, but those times are often accidental when it seems like he’s forgotten that he’s trying to impress us. It rarely lasts the duration of an entire song. If Sadistik continues on this path, he may eventually find himself and the result will be incredible, but at this point it’s at worst cringeworthy and at best mildly intriguing.