San Diego’s Black Hesher is a familiar name to regular readers of this blog. Hesher (aka King Shem) is an Alternative Hip-Hop artist, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer. He is easily the most prolific artist we have covered here at StaticDive.com. In the past year, Shem released three full albums; Rituals, Portals, and Sacrifices.
Each record was one part of a whole. Musically, they blend Hip-Hop, Alternative Rock and Pop into a complex but cohesive sound. Turntables and guitars are paired with drums, beat boxes and deep low ends to define the Black Hesher sound.
Birth of the Cool
Obviously, Shem’s style was not miraculously born in 2019. The sound comes from a tradition of Rap and Hardcore hybrid groups, unique to Southern California. In the 1980s and 90s groups like Suicidal Tendencies and Body Count pioneered the marriage of Punk, Metal and Hip-Hop. Black Hesher’s distinct take on the genre is years in the making. And he expands it well beyond those parameters.
In 2018, before he embarked on the Rituals/Portals/Sacrifices trilogy, Black Hesher dropped an eponymous debut album that introduced the world to his signature sound. The twenty-five cut record blazed the trail for those to come.
The album jumps right into that SoCal Rap/Rock scene with hardcore songs like “Skeletons” and “This Bottle of Pills.” There are plenty more representations throughout. And tracks like “Go Away” dive deeply into 80’s hardcore punk. But as the record progresses it expands into a rich and varied soundscape.
Shem goes hard, but he is not afraid to slow it down once in a while. I really dig the funky psychedelic Pop of “Hey” and the 70’s R&B flare on “Evel Knievel.” He continues his journey through the decades with the 90’s Alt-Pop of “Mallory Knox” and some Depeche Mode style 80’s electro-Pop on “Fake My Own Death.” The record even hints at Wilco-style Americana on “Merry Go Round.”
Dark Themes, and Some Fun
Lyrically, the album travels into some dark territory. As with other Black Hesher records; drugs, booze, addiction and all that comes with them are well represented. It’s heavy stuff, but it is real. Tracks like “Hammering the Sky” and “Escape Artist” deal with the mixed emotions of self-loathing and self-indulgence inherent to addiction.
Elsewhere the songs are just straight-up fun. It is an emotionally complicated record from an artist who defies stereotypes. For instance, in one breath he sings, “Forget your pain, dance in the rain,” and on the very next song raps, “Fuck all your heroes, I hope they get shot. I’ll be getting drunk in the parking lot.” That’s a lot to unwrap.
If, like me, you are already a fan of Black Hesher then this record is a fun way to dig further into his history. And if you are new to his sound, then this is a great place to start. Follow the links below to connect with the artist. Stay in the loop on his many projects… past, present, and future.