Question: Is the name “Yugen Blakrok” familiar to you? Well is it? If not, then let me give you some info on her.
Yugen Blakrok is a South African rapper hailing from Johannesburg, and she has been doing her thing since 2013 with her first album Return of the Astro-Goth, but she hasn’t released a follow-up since… well until now. However before that, last year, she did get some major attention from appearing in the Black Panther soundtrack, in particular on the track “Opps” with Kendrick Lamar and Vince Staples. Truth be told, Yugen killed her verse on that song, and it was one of my favorites tracks from that album (top 5, easily).
Now it’s 2019, and she’s finally released her sophomore record Anima Mysterium, so I decided to check out her debut beforehand, and to be short, it was some cool, futuristic hip-hop with a highly ’90s sound in there. I see why Kendrick Lamar and TDE recruited her to be on the soundtrack.
So with that said, how was Anima Mysterium?
Well, if you’re expecting 12 tracks of songs similar to “Opps”, you might get something out of it. The sounds in this project are very futuristic, South African-style beats with touches of boom-bap and horror/ dark wave as well. All the production is handled by Kanif The Jhatmaster, with Joel Assaizky contributing on ‘Carbon Form’ and 7th Galaxy on ‘Obsidian Night’, and the work from all three is on point, especially with Yugen’s lyricism in action.
Observing distant memories, fading over ages
It’s in the pain of remembrance, leave the structure ever-changing
Saw shape-shifting inspire the nihilist
Decipher mind script, hypotheses tested on self or mad scientists
Spit fire and water, I’m lion and hydra
Aloof in the distance, like the heart’s stellation of Libra
Note that in the last two lines, Libra is pronounced as ‘lie_bra’ in order to fit the rhyme for ‘Hydra’.
Write lyrics in runes and play the muse
Inspire fate to paint predestination’s landscapes
For the awakened, imaginations are stargates
Whistle, I’m listening–the pilgrim of the house of the wind
I’m the emissary
Hearing voices in the breeze, observing airy commentary
Plus, her flow is extremely on-point with the production sounding like it was made specifically for her, as no one else can rhyme on these beats like she can.
The vibes I’m getting from this is close to material from Aesop Rock, Wu-Tang, Del The Funky Homosapien, and even Shabazz Palaces. One other similarity she has with those artists: Yugen’s lyrics are pretty detailed dense. While by no means bad, this is one of those albums where you really need to pay attention and look at the lyrics as you’re listening to this. The themes of this album revolve around other beings superior to humankind, exposing how humans can be violent, and showing that the road to peace isn’t going to be a short trip.
Another change from her debut album is that she has a good amount of features, but these are mostly unfamiliar voices like Historian Himself, Fifi The Raiblaster, BRAVESTARR, Zetina Mosia & Jak Tripper. The only feature that might be recognizable to some underground hip-hop heads is Kool Keith on the track “Mars Attacks,” and all the features do perform well with her, but Yugen is still the head honcho of her own album.
But yes, this is indeed a good album, and for those are looking into Yugen Blakrok after hearing her verse on “Opps”, you’ll be pleased with the results of this album with her intriguingly dense bars full of sci-fi wordplay in there and mystical, experimental boom-bap production that catches your attention the whole way through.
FINAL VERDICT: Buy it. Get lost in the Anima Mysterium with this one.
ANIMA MYSTERIUM is distributed on I.O.T. Records and is available on CD, vinyl, digital download and streaming services. Check out her music on Bandcamp.