Future Classic: Obia le Chef & El Cotola “Le Théorème”
Montreal’s finest MC/Producer duo are back on their grind following up their ridiculously dope EP Le Procédé with their debut full length record Le Théorème. If the EP was the blueprint addressing themes of revolution and street spleen with serious bravado,beats and surgical rhymes, then the chemical procedure has been perfected because the Téorème is pure , raw and uncut in a way unmatched in the current Quebec rap game. Critics of the record have praised ElCotola’s production onslaught of astro-tribal soundscapes and hauting drumlines and guitar licks, but maintained that the subject matter and delivery were too gloomy. While I believe from the get-go the intentions are clear as the opening track brings us into their desolate universe of personal struggles (jdois partir,fils de cain) and revolutionary rage (Invictus, A bas!), there are plenty of songs that bring in another vibe and round out the record. Bottomline, Cotola’s sonic vision combined to Obia’s stunning structural rhyme spitting generate a true hiphop masterpiece, while the group continue to carve out their own path along the way.
As the first video “Pour le love” indicates, Obia triumphant return from battling in France has left him hungrier than ever and he takes control right from the start with the solid bars and detailed imagery over atmospheric and soulful production. Meilleure vie is another example of enthralling storytelling and the hypnotic Ou konnen represent the signature voodoo rap that the duo brings with a bouncing beat that fuels the ambitious doubletime delivery mixed with some creole flair. The title track is the distilled element of the album where a prophecy describes the duo’s alchemistic formula and clearly the final track about the end of the world describes it in all its overwhelming bleakness. However, even if I truly appreciated the the suave Désolé and the drive slow factor in Paire de coquilles along with the hiphop history namedrops on Dédicace my favourite track has to be Meilleure Vie. The song’s majestic beat manage to make an uplifting song keep the listener grounded and the lyrics are strung together beautifully. It serves to represent the album’s dynamic where we could be lead to a corner as dark as ‘’encre de chine’’ the imagery, delivery and Cotola’s cinematic soundscapes lead us to the light at the end of the tunnel.
Finally, although the group’s strength resides in the one producer, one MC mentality I have to mention the stellar work of the session musicians who added intricate layers of sounds to the beats and the stellar hooks by Agua Negra’s P-Noize and Jahnice who really melded his style with the voodoo bounce on Plus loin. Guest MC’s were sparsingly used to great effect by allowing them to shine in their element. Montreal vet Dramatik drops another complex rhyme scheme effortlessly while Souldia’s grimy flow enhances the gutter factor of the multi-syllabic back and forth with Obia.
Indeed, throughout the whole album Chief Peace showcases the versatility and hunger that make him one of the most feared battlers in the World with a flawless technique and a level of metaphors, references and all around pen game that places him in another stratosphere as far as francophone rap is considered. There is a poetic subtlety to say that ‘’une cartouche dans ta tête se creuse’’ instead of another played out gunbar. And this where I strongly disagree with the aforementioned critics calling for the album to lighten up, because to me this record is a breath of fresh air as far as consciousness and knowledge is dropped in a more realistic fashion drawing our attention and hyping us to stand up instead of boring us to tears and tightening our collective backpack. Same for the spaceraps dropped with purpose (featuring staunch verses by Cotola himslef) and the beats which even in their primary form are transformed by Soltec’s producer’s scientific sampling and the researched vocal snippets that deepen the record’s global message. Many have tried with varying levels of success to pull off the experiment that Obia & Cotola mastered and the result is one of the most original yet consistent rap records to come out of this province in the last decade. Anyone into true hiphop needs to purchase this record (link…support their solid merch as well…) and we can only hope this immaculate collaboration keeps on developing for years to come.