BECAUSE THE MUSIC MATTERS
Self-produced / 2011
by Andrew C. Schlett
So, if you’re a hard-rolling gangsta kid who grew up running the mean streets of The Woodlands, TX, a place where despair and hopelessness rub shoulders with hunger and poverty – and if you’ve been to The Woodlands, you know how much bullshit that really is – how do you express your angst, your pain, your love, your hopes, your feelings and your dreams to a world that seems to give very little of a damn whether you live or die? By what means do you reach out, how do you make your voice heard through the thick rolled-up tinted windows of the air-conditioned Audis, Escalades, or Lexuses all around you in a community that values material excess first? The Woodlands are posh, y’all, and it’s almost ridiculous to think that a normal, educated, standard white boy born into such an environment would have any issues at all beyond prom dates and college plans, but therein lies the hook. It is the underlying alienation of disaffected youth, timeless and universal, regardless of setting, culture, race, or social demographic, that lays the basis for Ferrell Martin’s come-out album, Earthworm, and a damned fine first effort it is, as well. Martin touches upon topics that transcend racial, cultural, and economic boundaries, speaking directly to youth in a language, that of hip-hop, that they can easily understand. ‘Feral the Earthworm’ drops real throughout this entire album, no slack at all.
From the outset the beats come hard and fast. Martin immediately stakes his claim to hip-hop legitimacy by disassociating himself from anything false or phony, vowing to “wield this mic like a machete” in his effort to lay bare the truths of life as he sees them. This seeking of truth is a common lyrical theme throughout Earthworm, reflecting the artist’s youthful bewilderment that a world so straightforward and simple can be so duplicitously complex in so many ways. The raps here are smooth and surprisingly tight most of the time. Now and again the structure may slip just a little, you are occasionally reminded that you’re really listening to an 18-year-old kid who made this mixtape in his buddy’s closet, but for the most part the rhymes are soundly constructed and reflect a level of intelligence and general knowledge not normally found in the youth of today. Arguably, Martin’s dopest raps stand on the pillars of his acute self-awareness and his pointed observations of the many wrongs besetting the world that he finds himself born into.
Much of the musical content of this album is unapologetically lifted from popular outside sources. Everyone from Crosby Stills & Nash to Dr. Dre to the British pop chartreuse Dido are sampled, but presented here for a new generation in a re-envisioned context that the original artists could never have foreseen. Martin uses these old tunes basically as stage props to spotlight and frame his own lyrical presentation, to shape and help convey his topics and points. Colorful imagery is employed here as well; he paints pictures through his rhymes that relate, in one way or another, to the sampled music laying the background beat, so it’s like hearing a familiar old beloved song that’s wearing a whole new coat. Not everybody could pull this off, but the Earthworm makes it work.
There are a total of eight tracks on this EP, and though all of them are legit, there are more than a few standing out as noteworthy. The second track, “Berlin Wall”, samples a DJ Premier beat while expounding on the base hypocrisy and double standards of life, using the fall of the Berlin Wall as a social metaphor. “These conniving little fascists have taken over my town / So I think it’s time to strike back up in the underground / With a sound that they can amplify when chillin’ with their friends / Or rolling through The Woodlands in a drop-top Benz.” This song touches on the same feelings of isolation and angst covered by both Rush (in ‘Subdivisions’) and Pink Floyd, but in a very much different way. Neal Peart saw the wall from a distance, simply commenting on the effects of it, while Roger Waters’ wall was self-erected and he stayed behind it until forced out. Martin’s was built by society pointedly to keep him from breaking through, and he lyrically assails this wall without mercy, battering it as if with the sledgehammer of a hip-hop beat, until eventually it breaks down like the one in Berlin finally did back in 1989. Quite the student of history is Ferrell Martin.
Another fine track, one which draws parallels between modern day life and the horrors of war, is ‘Omaha Beach’. Martin paints the scene of the 1944 D-Day invasion and then launches himself into one of the steeziest raps on the album. “Yo, maybe these words are stronger than I woulda thought / threw some ink upon the page now they claim I got a shot / cause I rhyme hot, folks listen close to my speech / as I take a look around I see Omaha Beach. / People defeated, confused, frightened and pissed / I’m on this fuckin’ beach too but every single bullet missed!” It continues through the same lyrical flow for four action-packed minutes set against the very listenable beats of Nas’ ‘The Message’. If a real music paper ever picks this song up, Earthworm could be on the move. ‘On The Move’ is the sixth song. It has a pretty tight flow too, among many others like ‘People’, which is set to CSN’s ‘What’s Up’, and ‘Feelings’ that sets Dido’s song ‘Thank You’ against the realities of Martin’s experience following his parents divorce and his mother’s drug abuse and abandonment of him and his siblings. It gets almost Slim Shady-esque listening to parts of this song, but Martin did promise early on to keep it real. Ain’t no shame in the Earthworm’s game.
There isn’t much on this self-produced effort that is weak or lame. Martin takes his love of hip-hop, and his execution of it, pretty seriously even though he decries all things serious in the outro track, ‘Stoked’. I’m also a little surprised to say that the production of this release is pretty well done too. He credits the talents of his friend Jaunti, above-mentioned owner of the closet, for this. It’s yet another wonder of the modern-day world, that just about anybody with the right software and equipment, and enough vision to produce something worth listening to, can make, record, and distribute their own music. Feral the Earthworm might be slicker and more glossy if it had been professionally produced, in a real music studio by real music engineers, but it stands on its own nonetheless. Indeed, the very rawness of it helps make it special. You can download a copy at www.earthworm1.bandcamp.com and show them Woodlands snobs what’s up! #itsearthwormonthemove
"Berlin Wall" "Fake Shit Sucks" "Omaha Beach"
With permission of the artist, Rivethead presents: The Earthworm!!