Album Review: Micranots "Obelisk Movements" (2000)

May 03, 2012 7 min read




“Obelisk Movements” is a high point in the Micranots career and a defining moment for I Self Devine. It’s that critical point where he and Kool Akiem channel the skill sets of their storied past and fine tune the rough edges to secure their place in the future, but without sacrificing the raw essence. They are focused, improved, purposeful and exercising more verbal precision, rather than scattered freestyled verses. I Self keeps his verbal ingenuity in tact, but instead of zoning out for extended periods, he better confines it to easier digestible song structures. Kool Akiem’s productions sounds as if he’s finally been given access to the tools he needed to flesh out his unique sound, which he has only been able to touch on before. This enables him to flaunt his growing knack for crafting tracks that sound like anthems, adding to the intensity. Essentially if the previous projects could be characterized as massive boulders rushing down a mountainside, then “Obelisk Movement” is a massive sized wrecking ball made of adamantium…more practical, completely in their control, and ultimately capable of more damage. I’m not sure if it was just their natural growth or if it was inspired from the satisfaction and rush of getting a record deal and increased accolades from their peers. I assume both factors played a part, but regardless, you get the feeling that they knew they were in a position to make a bigger impact with their first national record deal with Subverse Records.

“Obelisk Movements was recorded based on us opening for Company Flow, Reflection Eternal, Shabaam Sahdeeq and others when the Lyricist Lounge first traveled out of NY to Atlanta. After the show I handed El-P “Return Of The Travallah's” and from what I was told, they bumped it all through out Europe (while on tour). After Company Flow parted ways, Bigg Jus sent somebody to look for us to sign us.”

“Pitch Black Ark” makes a perfect lead song, as it ushers in the alternate delivery that I Self was tapping into, which is similar to his approach on “Decapitation III”. For the listener, it’s like watching a high-speed driver moving dangerously but gracefully on the highway…it raises your adrenaline and at the same time holds your attention because you’re amazed at his ability to navigate thru the organized chaos.  Or as I Self describes it, I abandoned the more rhythmic relaxed style seen on Return of the Travallah's for a multi syllable, more angled and jagged flow.”It’s all accented by snares that consistently do machine gun rolls that quickly drop into studder-step pauses, while the blaring horns serving as a call to arms.

 While listening to “Preparations” I noted something that’s also another added element to the Micranots repertoire. On “Obelisk Movements” they are very pro-active in paying tribute to the Old School. “Preparations” borrows from a Cold Crush Brothers routine. At the time, in their live show they had this routine based on a Roxanne Shante vocal. Later on the album, I Self Devine also references Grandmaster Flash, Mantronix, Marley Marl, and Soul Sonic Force. It’s not as if it was something completely new, they touched on it with “All Live” and the Style Wars sample. It’s just a more noticeable part of the formula here. Perhaps that is an additional reflection of I Self’s exhibiting a comfort in the mastery of his trade, allowing him to confidently recognize those before him who helped inspire it.

Continuing that line of thinking, “Culture” was one of the singles from the album and has a bit of a coolout vibe…it’s that head bop music. I Selffocuses on paying tribute to his Culture a.k.a Hip Hop, “This Hip Hop landscape’s my energy and Culture/High lyricism spill my blood for the rapture/Metamorphosized me, guided me wisely/Sewn shut like an inseam, how ni**az eyes be….”. On the second verse he drops this jewel, “Queens thought the Obelisk Movement was love movement, love music/Kings and Queens conceive seeds to this, and achieve high degrees to this…”

When I first heard the album the song that initially won the crown as my favorite was “Analyze”. It’s not only musically and lyrically ill, it’s also excellent in concept. Within the lyrics, I Self Devine takes an honest and critical look at his thoughts and actions, the positive as well as the negative and “hypocritical aspects”. It’s in line with the idea of challenging yourself before you go about questioning and chastising others. He explains in the opening dialog, “I’m down for revolution on all aspects, but before I even proceed to doing anything I gotta dig deep within myself, see what I’m dealing with…See what I’m all about…See my strong points and weak points…” That’s about as real as it gets. As an added bonus, as he exposes flaws and rebuilds himself, he also sees fit to lyrically kill it in the process. He just continually hits these points of poetic perfection. Case in point, “Walking on knuckles with bruised arches, I ego trip/Compassionate and callous, at the same time losing grip/Illustrious word sound, the earth bound/The art of awareness, I’m careless and profound/Misogynistic, destructive, corrupting/The inescapable chamber of hell got me suffering…”

“Illegal Busyness” is the most dominating beat on the album. It has an ideal amount of bass, a stealthy pace, and it is the appropriate theme music for any revolutionary march. It’s also most likely the best and most detailed account of the drug issues in this country in music form. I Self Devine doesn’t overlook the fact that the drug problem isn’t simply limited to substances peddled by street thugs and certainly isn’t exclusive to what are deemed as illegal substances. This reality is cemented and illustrated in the choruses, which switch up the substances on alternate hooks, “China white, crystal meth, angel dust, Percocet, cocaine, morphine, PCP/Hash, opium, prozac, special k’s, xanax, mushrooms, LSD!” Later he adds to the list, “Ecstasy, sugar, caffeine, thorazine, demerol, alcohol, nicotine, vicodin, trail mix, mescaline, ice, sherm/rohypnol, methadone, quaaludes, Burn!”

From the opening line he informs you that he is just reporting the information and not necessarily offering solutions, “The illicit hard drug industry is one trillion annually/You think you’re going to end this? ….Fantasy!”

For some reason when 97% of MCs do their tribute song to their lady or attempt to honor women in general, it is still laced with misogyny, sexist viewpoints, and ideals that sway heavy toward male satisfaction, forgetting that the point of a dedication is to keep whom is being honored in mind. “Queen Supreme” successful navigates thru these pitfalls and delivers a respectful, realistic and poetic tribute.

However, that isn’t even the best-written or most powerful dedication to a woman on the album. That honor belongs to “Mother’s Day”. The song duals as a mini-biography of I Self’s hectic past; dealing with gangs, incarceration, and overall rebellion.

Thru it all he had one person always there to inspire, encourage, and challenge him when needed, though not always wanted. This song is simply too beautiful to try and paraphrase, you need the full dosage…

There are no weak cuts on the album, but it is definitely a bit top-heavy. Tracks 2-9 are primarily the highlights of the album. After that, the remaining highlights are scattered thru out; “Xodus”, “The Willie Lynch” and the aforementioned “Mother’s Day”. “The Willie Lynch” is a posse cut, but doesn’t deviate from the conscious theme of the album. It perhaps even seeks to intensify it as it speaks on the continuing rippling effects of the US Slave Trade. Guest vocalists include the Liun’s Dean (Ekundayo, Luz Weed, Brane Saber, and Maat Ra). It features one of the heavier resonating lines on the album, as I Self ends his verse with, “Every revolutionary movement starts with Self!” It’s just simple, accurate, effective and metaphoric. I’m not certain of the order of appearances, but whoever the first MC is, he delivers the best guest appearance of the album. Other album guests include, long time I Self collaborator, Buddah Tye, with a rugged verse on “Balance”. Marq Spekt and Stahhr The Femcee appear on “Visualistic”, which is an also nice amalgamation of talent.

“Xodus” is the album closer and the slow beat is centered on a somewhat awkward, but alluring series of cowbells supported by some blunt snares, relaxing bassline, and 808 bass. I Self Devine rides the rhythm gracefully on a variety of random, but meaningful themes. It wouldn’t be any surprise if on the first couple listens you just got caught up in the synergy of the beat and the rhyme, then many listens later found yourself gravitating to the context of the lyrics. It functions as a the calming effect after the on-going musical assault of the album, but even as you wind down it is covertly injecting you with the same profound content.

-Album Stats & Unknown Facts Courtesy Of I Self Devine:

-“The album in it's day sold over 30,000 which was dope at the time. We traveled all over America, Canada, Europe, and Cuba.”

-“I had to record Obelisk twice because I purchased a bullshit microphone and pre amp and it came out horrible so I had to get the label Subverse to advance us more money to purchase additional equipment.”

 -“ I talked to India Irie about getting on the album before she blew up but it never panned out.”

-“While we were negotiating contracts for the album our lawyer and the labels lawyer were so heated that The label head and I had to hammer out the fine details.”  


Pitch Black Ark Lyrics:

Illegal Busyness Lyrics:

Preparations Lyrics

Sun Salutations Lyrics:


 Written By Kevin Beacham

Leave a comment

Comments will be approved before showing up.