INTERROBANG (2014): Music Review

A sonic interrogation with a bang! “INTERROBANG” (2014) by local D.C. artist Navid Azeez (“Navi”) is a potent, purposeful mash-up of quip raps, quick beats, and a whole lot of indie funk. Needling through its musical fabric is a sort of loud lament (both vocal and textual), a longing call, for our attention to focus on the ordinary, all the while using a patchwork of extraordinary deliveries to orchestrate the larger vocal stunt of Navi’s fourth solo EP.

Vividly different from the back-story sounds of “Grayscale” (2010), “ITERROBANG” peels itself apart from the ethnic narratives and drops into a world, or a mode, of hyperrealism. The album aims to poke at the ordinary until the ordinary pops out its extraordinary essence. An English major in college, one finds no lack in analyzing Navi’s source texts for their own verbal mastery. A multitalented Sri Lankan-American hip hop artist by profession, he is also a producer, writer, graphic designer, illustrator, and a co-founder of the Washington DC-based collective/record label: Delegation Music. Note that all the images in this article, and the album cover, are Navi’s original artworks.

First and foremost, I must admit—I did learn a new word: interrobang.

in·ter·ro·bang noun \in-ˈter-ə-ˌbaŋ\

Merriam-Webster defines this oddity as “a punctuation mark ‽ designed for use especially at the end of an exclamatory rhetorical question.” True to its semantics, all seven song titles are trite puzzles—left solely for the listener to disentangle. So disentangle we shall then. The verdict?

Navi – El Jefe!? (8.3/10)
Arguably my favorite of the lot, for anyone whose had that eccentric landlord from Hell (pretty much everybody) welcome to your “you get me!” song. The witty lyrics play on a multitude of themes, from economic lingo to pervasively political themes such as rent, real-estate, Morgan Stanley and even the Sandusky ordeal and wiretapping—all the while aiming to portray the landlord as that annoyingly successful all-seer, the One who sees through Febreeze and Lysol. The wild Western music in the background sets the aura for a showdown type narrative, further abetted by Navi’s on and off rapid fire raps which occasionally flit and then slowdown to a borderline mocking, yet infectious chorus that chants “El Jefe!?” This one’s definitely a download for that morning commute.

Navi – Expiration Date!? (7/10)

The familiarity is itching, and the drawl in the vocals is somewhat reminiscent of Drake—I know not if that is a good thing or a bad thing—but I personally liked it. Most sentences are almost the length of phrases and the abrupt “I” that interjects the popular Tove Lo’s chorus is well delivered and even better received. Definitely a different track from the rest of the album, and that kind of variety is a good thing.

Navi – Picnibus!?(6.5/10)
If anything this will make one somewhat hungry; and the music in the background takes you to an almost nomadic trance. It reminds me of gypsies and European travel. Not the easiest song to digest from the bunch.

Navi – Alexandra’s Clean Jeans!? (7/10)
Sound Cloud notes that “[t]his song is about laundry” but I’m willing to bet a lot that this is anything but. Once again, loyal to the theme, the song draws on a banal object, this time apparel. But the thrust of the song is in the expression of an awkward momentary infatuation that spins into a day dream!? There is a ghoul-like chorus that wraps itself like a mummy around the song and holds it in place. It plays into the adoration theme, like as if Alexandra is Cleopatra—only in this case it is somewhat mocking. Once again though, this song has an interesting story behind it under all that dirty laundry. The lyrics give us some insight but not enough to make any airtight conclusions.

Navi – Dead Man’s Things!? (6.7/10)
As the title suggests, this is an investigation into the remains of a personal history that is now covered with dust. The music itself isn’t the main act, since Navi’s vocals alone carry the weight of the track. A bit more musicality may have helped blend the tome-type preachy feel that hovers till the last note. But then again the current somberness, perpetuated by the depressed mellow tunes, perhaps work to create that sound image of stagnation and mechanic narration—you almost see an investigator poring over a dead man’s things, his thoughts becoming the audible rap.

Navi – The Honey Spot!? (8.3/10)
You can’t deny giving merit to all the different elements that congregate to make this song work. The opening’s choppy electronic beats and their hypnotic repetition evoke the type of beehive pulp image that make this song work. The lyrics are sexually charged, almost sickly sweet like the nectarous honey they try to ooze out. Overall this release  hits the sweet spot.

Navi – Expiration Date (Fatback Remix!?) (6.2/10)
A darker version of the previous un-remixed track. Unfortunately, however, it doesn’t do as much to warrant itself a place in the album, especially when “Expiration Date” itself does such a stellar job on its own. Not really a bad track, but more a question of—why do we need this one again?

Overall, “INTERROBANG” is quite the intriguing mix of tracks, and its true value resides not only in the sound waves but also in the textual ink. Some of these tracks are without doubt already on queue for download to my iPhone. For doing it right “INTERROBANG” earns a solid 7.2/10 in our books. Adieu.

Be sure to have a listen: 

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