Gamer Soundtracks: XoC Travels Divergent Timelines
In reviewing music, hip-hop in particular, you tend to look for idiosyncrasies within the music in order to distinguish it from the others. At first, it was simply being in the genre of nerdcore that distinguished certain hip-hop acts from the mainstream ones. Now, within that genre, and as it begins to branch out more, one tends to look for more specific details. A hook, a beat, and in the case of XoC, a voice.
I’ve reviewed XoC before, in a sense, but that was only as a guest star on an album. I noted that his bit on the track was one of my favorite bits on the album. With Divergent Timelines, XoC has a very distinct voice with his rapping, but that’s not all that makes him stand out among the crowd. One thing that really makes him stand out is his narrative in songs.
You see, stringing random words together on top of some obnoxious and catchy beat might work for Top 40 radio, and that’s fine, but that’s not music in my mind. That’s mass produced cookie-cutter crap that has no soul to it. XoC is a prime example of what happens when an artist puts his soul into his music, into the narrative, not only telling a story but creating an emotive association with the words.
I’m going to make some general statements about the music. Most of the back-beats are either borrowed from other artists or re-used samples from older songs or beats. That being said, nothing is original and upon speaking after the fact, XoC does lament this fact. I’m not saying that it ruins the album, but the effort and feeling that XoC put into the lyrics and delivery is diminished a little bit by beats that sometimes just don’t seem to click with the lyrics.
It’s kind of like if Common, one of the most lyrically specific mainstream rappers I can think of, was just rapping over samples instead of molding production to his music. In that way, I’m comparing XoC to Common, and why not? The narrative is there, less the poetry, but the stories are certainly there.
That’s what XoC does throughout the whole album. The songs “Feels Good Remix”, “Emergency Room” and “Letter to my Twin” deliver very personal messages. His flow is nearly flawless and while I didn’t enjoy all the back beats on the album, I found myself listening again just for his rapping. I liked “Flatland” though I really couldn’t follow the story, and grabbing a ska type beat for “Life of Lies” was a creative move.
While XoC has a very distinct voice, at times the flow felt forced. That might just be how I interpreted the album, you might get a different feel from it. I really enjoyed “Life of Lies” as I’m listening to it again right now. It’s a good example and break from the bleak and dark feel of the album. Also, the track “Give and Take” was an entertaining track as well, lightening the load at the end of the album.
That load needed to be lightened. This album is dark. It’s not depressing though, as there are some happy, or at least not completely tragic endings. For the most part though, whether it’s from a place of honesty or a story close to his heart, XoC drives the narrative through his wording and breaking the action for spoken word at the end of songs compeleting the story.
Divergent Timelines is a great showcase of a vocal talent that needs to partner with someone like Untested Methods or ProjektZero for the beats. That would be a hell of a superior rap album for sure. I think original beats meshed with XoC’s very unique and catchy style would be an unstoppable album. That’s the future though.
For the purposes of Divergent Timelines which you can download for free here (support independent artists – if you like the album go back and make a donation) I’d say that you can’t find a better vocally crafted hip-hop album out right now. I’m impressed with his voice, I’m impressed with his storytelling and I’m impressed with his resolve in being able to put it all down for us to listen to.