The Scream


In his last post, Pete hinted as to our discussions about the lengthy scream session on “Circus.” I feel compelled to add that this wailing just bothers me, and may ruin what is otherwise one of the most original and enjoyable tracks on the album.

While I did listen to the entire 2:10 scream session on my first couple go-rounds, I just skip it every time now. The closer I listen via headphones, the more it comes across as poor acting (irregardless of this woman’s amazing set of lungs). That might be a fine tooth judgment call, and maybe that’s just me.

However, more interesting for the purposes of discussion might be another criticism of mine, which is that this incessant wailing is in poor taste. On one hand, I understand that art is supposed to stir emotion and make us uncomfortable–particularly activist art. But on the other hand, this is music we’re talking about here and at some point, such a tragic audio vignette crosses a line from musical expression into something different, and does it in a way that disrupts the aesthetics of the album.

After all, the challenge for any conscious rapper is to blend his commentary into the contours of the music–no small feat. If he just wanted to record his recitation of an essay on ghetto violence, he could do that–but it would probably cease to be hip-hop at that point. Somewhere in between those extremes lies the scream session from “Circus.” Admittedly, I’m somewhat on the fence about this, but for now I’m inclined to think it just doesn’t work and in the aggregate, it takes away from the album.

Moreover, it diminishes what is really an excellent track to showcase the potential of ISWHAT?! Napoleon is so on point with his cryptic but overtly critical lyrics. And his flow over the frantic bass line and improvisational sax play is stellar. This is not to mention the creative arrangement of the song with its several unexpected changes.

This is all a really long way of saying that I thought the scream session was either a) much too long, or b) should have been made into a separate interlude track.



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