Namir Blade is an Intergalactic Ringleader & So Much More with New Concept Album
Evan Dale // Aug 23, 2020
Listening in on the waning moments of Pace, where Namir Blade and Jordan Webb recount Pimp C’s infamous opening lines of his closing verse on Jay Z and UGK’s Big Pimpin’, I come to the realization that I’ve seen these two before. On a makeshift stage sandwiched between a makeshift skatepark and a very legitimate Red Bull sound system truck, tucked into the corner of one of America’s more local, small-stage festivals with one of the more jealousy-inducing lineups on the circuit, the Nashville duo who also collaborate under the pseudonym, Super Struggle Bros, put on a high-energy, intimately comfortable, yet powerful performance for a crowd made up mostly of friends. Instantly, on the third track of Namir Blade’s new, 2020 concept project, Aphelion’s Traveling Circus, where a listener sits in on every aspect of interplanetary extravaganzas frequenting orbits at their furthest, coldest point from the Sun, I am placed back into the muggy Nashville Summer heat, where other local rappers take turns gripping the mic and making use of a Still Familia skatepark in what felt like such simpler times. And by the time Pace comes to an end, and the otherworldly chimes of intermissionary, Biowaretech are pulled into frame, I come to the realization that though a festival of such intimacy may not happen again for a very long time, an album brimming with this brand of interstellar hypercreativity is in and of itself a form of travel and musical immersion. So, I let go and continue listening, because like everyone else these days, I want nothing more.
Aphelion’s Traveling Circus (ATC) is a rare album, and Namir Blade a rare breed. The Nashville artist is perhaps best labeled as exactly that. A multi-instrumentalist, a producer, a rapper, and an all-around free spirit of boundless artistry, Blade is a shining example of what Nashville’s hip-hop centric creative underground has to offer: the future. But intertwined with its cultural past, Nashville is a well-rounded, firmly footed, anti-trend creative capital where timeless and timely works of art aren’t necessarily rare these days. Yet even among them, ATC is special, not by the idea of narrative which has likewise driven many recent Nashville hip-hop projects from Chuck iNDidgo’s iNDigo Café to Brian Brown’s Journey to Surfing: Highs N Lows from JORDAN Xx, but from narrative in such pure, fantastical form.
ATC has no parallels. It stirs up memories of Southern hip-hop’s roots from its early homage to UGK to a track-to-track aesthetic born-and-bred in one of the South’s most important cultural spheres. It ties itself to the cinematic, oft-hilarious antics of comedic wordsmiths like Deltron 3030 and Busdriver. It pays respects to the Wu-Tang rooted affinity for otherworldly, all-encompassing narrative. But everything else, from a raw intergalactic storyline driven by trap antics, to Namir Blade’s own auditory aesthetic that meanders in mosaic alongside, ATC is a filmic, immersive exploration of what not only hip-hop can conjure in its bounds, but what music can do to transplant the minds of its listeners somewhere far, far away; deep, deep within. Once taken there, it’s also a phenomenal exhibition of modern hip-hop and its surrounding stylistic gray areas.
Back to where we started with Pace, where Aphelion’s Traveling Circus at large really begins to take sonic shape. The track is a firm display of where Namir Blade is at as a hip-hop creative. And alongside longtime friend and collaborator, Jordan Webb, Pace also sets a precedent of collaboration, creative fluidity, and just downright addicting nature. Effortlessly belaying quick-cadenced poeticism, the two trade verses and harmonize on a hook to bring to a life a positivist, fun-loving hip-hop anthem that speaks to the bold nature of the project surrounding it, though still allowing for broad stylistic exploration as it moves forward. And that’s a good thing because once ATC’s next inclusion, Patlabor, comes into frame, established lanes are off the table. Instead, Namir Blade takes the opportunity to embrace to circus, the zany, the bizarre with rap riff worthy of hyper speed. Immediately after, with Science, he churns out an off-kilter stage sung ballad, throwing anyone listening yet to commit to the galactic immersion, for a loop.
And that’s the idea. Aphelion’s Traveling Circus doesn’t adhere to any stylistic norms. It’s a cinematic concept, and per its arrangement, dunks a listener into the world of a struggling interplanetary circus rather than telling the story of Namir Blade, Nashville, or hip-hop at large. Until that’s understood, ATC is a rambling, madcap display. But when it is understood, it’s simply the tale of Aphelion’s Traveling Circus.
Sure, ATC shines Namir Blade in a light as a gifted rapper (Pace, Patlabor, Stay, Dragunov), but outside of his hip-hop chops – which don’t have room to be negated – Namir Blade shines equally bright in his role as ringleader during the projects ebbing, flowing intermissions (Aphelion’s Travling Circus, Spanish Web); in his role as melody driven vocalist touting emotion into the album (Science, Space Ghost, The Mind).
His well-roundedness is without question, his creativity unparalleled.
For nearly an hour, Aphelion’s Traveling Circus is an exhibition of exactly that. Creatively framing a project in the spectrum of an intergalactic story, Namir Blade removes himself from stylistic expectation, and instead grants himself free range to do whatever the hell he creatively wants. And in turn, he delivers one of the more unique projects of the modern cloth, proving himself an artist not only brimming with musical talent, but exceeding with directive vision, confidence, and creativity larger than our own Galaxy’s reach.