Strictly Hammers: The Weak Album

Paul Whyte

Strictly Hammers loves to crank out new material, they’ve released five albums in around a year’s period of time. Their latest release, “The Weak Album,” falls somewhere in the area where it’s could be considered a long EP or a short LP, it’s seven tracks long.  The title isn’t really meant to be some soft of a slam on this album but rather notes that this album took roughly a week to put together.
This latest release isn’t really “weak” at all and holds up well to the other albums I’ve had a chance to listen to by Strictly Hammers. The album opens up with an introduction track, similar to the way their November 2013 release, “Nordic Waste,” started out where they use a thought provoking monologue from a movie. This time the monologue is Azrael’s “evil is an abstract” scene in the movie Dogma. The monologue brings out that humans have essentially created their own hell and have trapped themselves into being tied to religion in a futile attempt to save themselves, “because it is beyond your abilities to simply make personal recompense for the sins you commit. No, you choose rather to create a psychodrama and dwell in a foundless belief that God could never forgive your grievous offenses.” This primarily instrumental intro is a pretty and laid back ambient arrangement with a light trip-hop beat.
With the production and delivery of this album, it’s kind of amazing it was put together in a week. Again, it’s a mix of avant-garde back tracks with tight raps and lyrics. The track, “Oh Snap,” brings in the beat and then lays out layers of samples that include trumpet, piano and I could be wrong, but it sounds a bit like Gizmo the Mogwai’s singing is pitch-shifted in the movie Gremlins. Interesting and unique placement of samples flowing in and out of the mix is once again the name of the game in this album.  
The track, “Hear Me Out,” ties into the intro track of the album to some extent. It’s common for some Strictly Hammers lyrics to be a little abstract, “we are all angels leaving an angel of death, I met a paper goddess who put staples in her flesh, she said she could fly from the cables in her chest, I said into her secrets a way to be impressed, walked over to the table where she wept, said she lived in heaven and was unable to pay the rent, so I called over the waitress and paid for her check, that’s the least somebody could do to alleviate some stress.” The lyrics are delivered fairly fast in a lot of the songs but it still always the listener to get the imagery and idea of what’s going on. As far as the backing track on this song, it’s catchy and oddly upbeat considering the lyrics which pull on religious themes, but then again it could be about meeting a woman who is down and out. The pretty and airy background vocals add a nice touch to the track. It’s kind of like the background vocals in “Where is My Mind,” by The Pixies.
The track, “Just A Trend,” comes off on the more on the literal side about what the song is about. “They say that hip-hop was just a trend, but it’s always been there when I needed a friend, no matter what happened I proceeded to bend, hip-hop I’ll be to the end,” goes the chorus. “This music saved my life when I needed a friend/no one to talk to so I picked up my pen/decided to write all my thoughts and aggressions/depressions are a lesson in the lessons I was blessed to win,” starts the first verse.  
The final track, “Trap Like Shout Out,” is aptly named as in as it names a number of local hip-hop artists, people in the Duluth music scene and other locations and things in Duluth. Strictly Hammers has been around for a few years and in that time they have worked with a number of musicians and rappers in the area. Besides Strictly Hammers, Crimson (aka, Matt Ihle), this album features Willie Diction, deathhook, Low-Hi Funk, Dann Fuhs of Mikey Talented, NonFic and Jaze. In the last five years or so hip-hop music has really pulled together into a tight community. Strictly Hammers hasn’t strictly worked with just hip-hop artists, they’ve also worked with local bands The Horror and Mikey Talented.
Once again Strictly Hammers has pushed and bended genres. The blend of creative and experimental production with smooth rhymes is what their music lies on. While it is hip-hop, they create a full listening experience that is both pushing boundaries and yet stays tasteful and easy to get into.  
The Weak Album can be listened to or downloaded for free or donation on Strictly Hammers bandcamp site. In fact all of their official releases can be listened to and downloaded for free off of bandcamp. There may be an official CD release later this spring. Crimson is planning on moving to the Twin Cities in the near future so shows in the Twin Ports might become less frequent but it seems likely that there will still be more to come with time.


Paul Whyte

A South Shore native and University of Wisconsin-Superior journalism graduate. Lifelong musician, and former open mic host. Passionate about the music scene and politics.

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