Our Daily Bread 518: Guillotine Crowns ‘Hills To Die On’ 

Our Daily Bread 518: Guillotine Crowns ‘Hills To Die On’

ALBUM REVIEW/MATT OLIVER

May 12, 2022 

Guillotine Crowns ‘Hills to Die On’ 
(Uncommon Records) 

Do not read between the lines: these crowns haven’t been made to sit comfortably atop underground sovereigns. Hills To Die On is an uprising as well as an upholding of 80s-made disaster, predicting a New York-Chicago futurism that’s actually right under your fingernails, dirt and all. In orators Uncommon Nasa, whose clipped bravado, capable of coiling ad infinitum until he’s constricting your windpipe, and Short Fuze, no less strident but a case of always having to watch the quieter ones in times of distraction, Guillotine Crowns fuck up the b-boy stance and the front rows they’re liable to jump into. Dystopia may be the easy catch-all term to apply to this album of margin-ignoring hip-hop, and these are no gilded garlands on display; but when added to its deeply rooted survivalist spirit, just being without ever seeking hero status, Hills To Die On becomes music to spray skyscrapers by. 

As with the Monolith Cocktail-approved, 2019 Uncommon Nasa project City As School with Kount Fif, indie/leftfield hip-hop titans Company Flow and Cannibal Ox, both of whom are referenced in rhyme, are where yardstick parallels are drawn and which give the album a weird throwback status caught in forward thinking-retro fantasy-modern living crossfire. Throw this back to times of Anticon/Def Jux etc (in which Nasa earned his stripes) and you’re hopeful for the scene all over again, thrilled by the likes of ‘Horseman Armour’ and ‘Scope of the Guillotine’ spewing out abstract angles hiding as straight lines and taking no shortcuts in unseating speakers. 

The duo recognise the need to mobilise, but also the parameters of the friends/enemies axis. Whereas the resistance of ‘They Can’t Kill Us All’ is comparable to an all-for-one zombie outbreak, ‘The Product’ has Guillotine Crowns accepting the Sword of Damocles as both potential sealer of fate and a means of going for self amongst online/media minefields. Dense, dry and pretty unforgiving without being indecipherable, GC embark on “around-the-clock stakeouts to reset history” with enough ear catching references – Pelle Pelle sweatshirts, shouts to EPMD, Wu-Tang, DOOM and “Flava Flav with the 12Gauge” – to ease furrowed brows. The pertinence of their streams of consciousness will eventually emerge like a word balloon, forced into your eyeballs as a revision of the Clockwork Orange syllabus. 

“My life is fast forward, while yours is a series of pauses” says the crushing headswim of ‘Rebel Crowns’, proposing the question of “do you want to be right, or do you want to be correct?” that through the wrong mic would just be look at me-level pretentious. And like any hip-hop act, underground or mainstream, the pair know the worth of a good hook that punters can take as gospel or make a tattoo of, acknowledging rap’s saviour-like status on the come up and pledging allegiance to the grind. The two leaders are joined on the mic by a bunch of street corner-dwelling savages slash town criers – Jyroscope, Duke01, Gajah, Tracy Jones, Skech185 a sometimes improbable cross-section of survivors and reinforcements to reroute the tide. 

The sound of everyday anarchy is dominated by drum machines bullying backdrops like they’re about to cause the 80s music scene to splinter. Guitar chords are crowbarred if not sawn off, and holographic, peace-seeking synths become something more gothic and sinister, analogous to arcade machines becoming sentient. The programming of effects and percussion make tracks itch, irritating your inner ear. ‘Art Dealers’ sounds like ‘Brooklyn Zoo’ in a backpack. The scarily beautiful ‘Generosity’, with its damning hook sample, sounds jettisoned in space, while providing rhymes for the ages that measure the distance of returning to reality. 

The dissonant ‘Bare Hands’ projects a robot uprising with the metropolis as its playground, whose hook of “I will destroy you with my bare hands…my power is limitless, you can’t come close to stopping me” both boosts and belies its Gotham-like setting, with ‘Hills’ providing a triumphant, comic book-coloured sci-fi fanfare and a chorus to leap headlong into for anyone needing a new manifesto. Rarely does the Hills… have time to check its pulse across 46 minutes; ‘Tape Deck’ tries to act dreamy, but can’t get no sleep. The industrial grind of ‘City Breathing’ is made for tank-as-low rider, and ‘Killer’, with Short Fuze calculating villainously, reaches the apex of the album’s claustrophobia living in a police state. 

Hills To Die On is classic anti-socialism in the shock-of-the-new, ghettoblaster on full blast sense, though suffering the establishment, rather than just being anti-establishment, seems to be the Guillotine mindstate. All hail the Crown rulers setting standards from home to the Terrordome.

From Cabbages Hip Hop May 1st Newsletter 

Guillotine Crowns, Hills To Die On 

Despite respectively repping NYC and Chicago, seasoned hip-hop artists Uncommon Nasa and Short Fuze have roughly a decade's worth of long-distance recorded history together. The former made beats for the latter on a handful of projects, yet their 2020 team-up under the Guillotine Crowns' moniker seems only to have solidified their bond further. With both rappers sharing the mic, tracks like "City Breathing" and the rugged "Art Dealers" find them in top thematic form. Their street knowledge and genre tenture serves them well too on highlight "Horseman Armour" with Duke01 and Gajah. For listeners who've followed Nasa from his Def Jux / The Presence beginnings, the production progression demonstrated on "Killer" and the clamorous "Rebel Crowns" will feel rewarding.

Guillotine Crowns - Hills to Die On 

Guillotine Crowns - Hills to Die On 

Written by Chi Chi Thalken on April 29, 2022 

New York emcee/producer Uncommon Nasa and Chicago emcee Short Fuze have been friends and collaborators going back over ten years, but in 2020 they made their official debut as the duo Guillotine Crowns when they dropped their debut album, The First Stand. Two years later, and they are back to solidify their status with their sophomore album, Hills to Die On. 

Much like the first album, Hills to Die On is completely produced by Uncommon Nasa, with the exception of one track that is coproduced by Digdug. As is to be expected, the album hits you with some intense beats with dense layering drawing on Nasa’s love of vintage prog samples, flipping them and transposing them into dark midtempo tracks that set the mood and the energy level for Short Fuze and Nasa on the mic. On a sonic level, Fuze and Nasa make for a good pairing, with their contrasting styles on the mic, pairing Nasa’s low, booming voice and deliberate pacing and Fuze’s mid-range voice and smoother flow to create a nice balance across the album. Once you get into the meat of the album, you start to see why a group called Guillotine Crowns might be appropriate to speak to the times we are living in. Throughout the course of the album, Nasa and Fuze are speaking directly to you as a listener about the dark times we’ve been living through, whether it be issues of race, class, art, war, or a fucking global pandemic. These last few years have been especially rough, but Fuze and Nasa are here to work their way through some difficult conversations, challenge themselves and their listeners, and, oh yeah, make some dope hip hop along the way. They aren’t just doing by themselves either, with Jyroscope, Duke01, Tracy Jones, and Sketch 185 all dropping dope verses, but once again it’s Gajah (RIP) who shows up on “Horseman Armor” with verbal gymnastics that will make you do a double take and makes you shake your head afterward. 

Hills to Die On is a great sophomore album from a fairly new duo of veteran artist who know how to rock it and drop a dope album. They don’t take anything for granted, they speak to the moment, and they put a lot of themselves into the project. 

Title:Guillotine Crowns - Hills to Die On 

Label:Uncommon Records 

Year:2022 

Rating:8/10

New Music | Friday Roll Out: Guillotine Crowns, Tombstones In Their Eyes, Winged Wheel, Czarface 

Originally posted on Ghettoblaster

 

There’s Hip-Hop, and then there’s HIP-HOP. Real always recognize real and for the most part, commercial radio has killed much of it, but the underground has always remained ripe for the picking. There are those that have continued to flourish creatively as the mainstream continues to ignore them. For years Uncommon Nasa has released numerous albums; solo, The Presence, White Horse, and his work has only gotten better with age. Guillotine Crowns is yet another project both he and Chicago emcee Short Fuze are a part of but both have collaborated with one another in the past. Nasa handled production duties on three releases so it seems it was only a matter of time before the two would become a duo. 

Following 2020s The First Stand, Guillotine Crowns returns with The New Hills To Die On(Uncommon Records) and things are bigger, badder, and deffer for the 21st century. “Now They Know It” opens with a sample taken from the 1979 cult classic, The Warriors, and the song stays true to the film’s gritty nature as both emcees volley rhymes, clashing against one another with lyricism revolving around loyalty & paranoia. But it’s the guttery backdrop that will keep you intrigued. The song leads directly into the bouncy “Art Dealers,” filled with lyrical highs and lows with a piano line that repeats itself throughout but it’s barely noticeable. It’s consistent and fiery. “Scope Of The Guillotine (feat. Jyroscope)” is a bit different here. Nasa’s production, while still influenced by the urban grime we’ve become familiarized with, is a bit cleaner. Chicago emcee Jyroscope guests here and fits in seamlessly, matching lyrical flow with the Guillotine. 

There’s an abundance of catch-and-release vibes to get down to throughout the album, much like “Horseman Armour” which features L.A.’s Gajah and the U.K.’s Duke01 of Lost Sons. All four emcees deliver hearty vocals but it’s the rapid-tongued Gajah that stands out. It may just be coincidental because the pause right before he drops his first words may be somewhat dramatic, but fitting. Moving over to “Tape Deck (feat. Tracy Jones),” this is the song that’s the odd man out. It’s cinematic to an extent and you can’t help but imagine its Stranger Things-like Hip-Hop vibe. Bear with me. Musically it’s odd, as is the show and yes, the series may be an era piece but it could work, we just have to suspend disbelief. But it’s the disjointed “KILLER (feat. SKECH185)” that entertains curiosity. The track moves at a malignantly slow pace, and it’s not pretty, but nor should it be. It comes with heady messages, filled with metaphors and SKECH185 delivers a gruff and monstrous delivery. The song is followed by the morose “Generosity” cautiously moving in serenity yet filled with doubt and melancholia. Fuze and Nasa eloquently deliver rhymes that question, bordering and flirting on the existential but firmly rooted in reality. 

With Hills To Die On, it seems both Short Fuze and Uncommon Nasa find their collective stride as Guillotine Crowns. Even on the closing “Hills” the venom in their vocals delivers the fight in their bellies. We should expect more from Guillotine Crowns and welcome it because right here, they’re bringing the heat with this fiery collection of tracks!

Scratched Vinyl Review - Guillotine Crowns - The First Stand 

Written by Chi Chi Thalken on July 30, 2020 

Chicago artist Short Fuze and New York artist Uncommon Nasa have been collaborating off and on for about ten years, but now the’ve decided to officially become a duo, going by the name Guillotine Crowns. Before they release their first full-length album of original material, they present this compilation of their collabs over the years, The First Stand. 

The first thing that hit me in listening to this compilation is that it’s about time that these two officially record as a duo, because this doesn’t feel like a comp – it feels like an album. And that’s because these two are so much on the same page musically, it just makes sense. They have similar deliberate flows on the mic, with a propensity for abstract imagery, and they both sound great on Uncommon Nasa’s left field proggy psychedelic beats. Over the course of this release, we also get some guest appearances from some familiar faces, such as Shortrock, Taiyamo Denku, Augury, Cirrus Minor, Last Sons, and Barrie McClain. My particular favorite is Barrie McClain’s soaring vocals on the majestic “Champions,” which will just get you pumped to do whatever it is you have to do. That’s the beauty of a compilation like this – there’s a good chance you either missed or maybe forgot about at least one of these songs over the years, and now you have a chance to go back and play catch up and uncover a gem or two. Any way you slice it, you’ve got a solid collection of underground hip hop from two artists that really feed off of each other’s energy very well. 

It will be a little bit longer before we get their official first full-length album, so The First Stand makes for a nice setup before it comes. As it reveals, Uncommon Nasa and Short Fuze have been a duo this whole time. 

Title:Guillotine Crowns - The First Stand 

Label:Uncommon Records 

Year:2020 

Rating:8/10

The Riviera Autonomy Music Album Review 

Original Link: The Riviera by Jack

Artist: Short Fuze & Uncommon Nasa 
Album: Autonomy Music 
Record Label: Uncommon Records 
Release Date: 19th July 2016 



There are few in the underground Hip-Hop game who have been as prolific in recent years as Uncommon Nasa. Having been in contact with him for about three years now, a new project is always an exciting prospect- there's always the sense that it'll be a journey, a sort of post-modern re-visitation of ideas and values that are well-cited that then get re-claimed and re-dissected to comply with Nasa's personal achievements and world-view. 

Autonomy Music is Nasa's third collaborative project with fellow New York MC Short Fuze. Nasa sits back and takes control of the production reigns, leaving most of the literary character of this record to Short Fuze, whose dynamic rhyming system and sometimes intensely personal lyrical direction mean that Autonomy Music (more often than not) offers exactly the right amount of feel and atmosphere that one has come to expect from Nasa's ever-widening platform, Uncommon Records. 

The record's first half (save the sample-lead, reflective and re-constructive intro of 'Art Gallery of Autonomy') serves as a more direct helping, whether it be via Fuze's self-deprecating honesty on 'The Darkest Place I've Ever Been' or the gritty, hard-nosed dissonance of 'EMPD'. The production is brilliantly judged at almost every point, and gives enough space for Fuze's laid-back but urgent tones to take the front and centre stage. 

It's on the doom-laden 'Self Distortion' that things begin to get more poetically introspective. "Hell is a ferocious prison", quips Fuze with tangible vulnerability, with Curly Castro coming through with a verse the smacks of loss and disappointment. Though this track (and others before it) re-traces religious iconography, at first it's hard to know whether to take these references as sardonic or not, but on 'Time And Space' any rejection of nihilism is swiftly done away with; "Reaching for the teachings of God, when the hand that feeds is bitten off", jests Fuze cruelly, re-citing the same disdain for spiritual belief on the following 'Addicted to the Horn'. On the penultimate track 'Oddest Future', over Nasa's crushingly stomping boom-bap Fuze is almost reminiscent of Zach De La Rocha in his rapid fire, venomous righteousness. 

Though Autonomy Music doesn't ever really drop the ball in terms of its thematic guidance, there are some less memorable moments. When it's at its absolute peak (the last four songs) it's steam-roller momentum comprised of reflection, personality and lyrical providence offers a vast plain of thought-provoking and musically hard-hitting listening. These days, Uncommon Records has basically become synonymous with esoteric quality. 

7/10

Damn That Noise Review  

Original Link: Damn That Noise Review by Ralph Perez



Autonomy Music is the 2nd full-length album from Short Fuze & Uncommon Nasa with the last being 2010’s Lobotomy Music, and it is a ride through internal struggles, depression, and spiritual wrestlings’.Short Fuze is the kind of MC who does not rush through a song layering his lines with vague plays on words as filler, this man is thoughtful, calculated, and sure of his voice. Uncommon Nasa is a skilled and respected MC in his own right, but with this project he has taken a supporting role on the mic, but a Director’s role on the sonic aspect, as the main Producer for the entire project with excellent results collectively. 

If you came into this album hoping to not have to think then you’ve come to the wrong place becauseShort Fuze is going to question your stance on faith and science (“Time & Space”), our adolescent ideologies (“Beggar’s Buffet”), and also getting lyrically fit while paying homage to legends (“EPMD”). I respect MC’s like Fuze because you can hear from songs like the Curly Castro featured “Self-Distortion” that he carefully pens his thoughts out and lays out his vulnerabilities without apprehension, and anyone who can relay lines like “Of Course it’s come down to me and God and how much I’ve missed you. Father, you should’ve known I have commitment issues” is someone I want to continue to support and listen to. 

Hip-hop is rooted often times, in talking about how dope you are, how tough you can be, how hard your crew is, and how unfuck-with-able you are in general, so when you get vulnerable & honest music from MC’s like Short Fuze (and Uncommon Nasa) it is almost our duty to support and share the music with anyone in range. Autonomy Music is a progressive piece of music from Uncommon Nasa’smasterful production job to Short Fuze’s near Hemmingway-Esq approach to writing about life and it is our duty as members, visitors, founders, and lovers of Hip-hop culture to make sure this reaches all corners of the listening map. 

 Rating: 9/10

Scratched Vinyl Review 

Original Link: Scratched Vinyl Review by Chi Chi

Emcee Short Fuze and producer/emcee Uncommon Nasa have been frequent collaborators over the years. If you’re not already familiar with their music, all you have to do is listen to their third full length together, Autonomy Music, and you’ll immediately hear how well they complement each other. 

There are a lot of things to like about Autonomy Music. If you’re familiar with Uncommon Nasa’s production, this is more of what he does best – some dense, prog-inspired beats that balance the weirdness of the underground hip hop of the late ‘90s and early ‘00s in New York, alongside the gritty-yet-pop-friendly production of New York groups of the early ‘90s like Wu Tang and Mobb Deep. Lyrically, Short Fuze finds a similar balancing act, bringing in some more abstract philosophical discussion alongside concrete personal narratives and pop-culture references. What really elevates the album, though, is the back and forth between the two artists. There are a few moments spread out over the course of the album where Uncommon Nasa places some audio clips before songs, and while in general I advise artists to do this sparingly and to try to keep things short as to not kill momentum, Nasa has a knack for finding some really compelling and thought-provoking clips that get you thinking, only to have the music kick in and Short Fuze piggybacks off of some of the ideas presented with his rhymes. Add in some guest verses from Nasa and Philly emcee Curly Castro, and we have one incredibly solid indie hip hop album. It’s weird without being alienating, and it’s fun while still being challenging and not afraid to embrace its oddness. 

If you like your hip hop gritty and intellectual, but still having a pop sensibility and some humor, Autonomy Music is for you. Short Fuze and Uncommon Nasa really work well with each other, and the push and pull here has resulted in some really great hip hop. 

Title: Short Fuze & Uncommon Nasa - Autonomy Music 
Label: Uncommon Records 
Year: 2016 
Rating: 8/10