Listen UP!: The Black Opera

The Internet is the new crab bucket. Emcees are on some Nas ish, avoiding sleep like it’s an early grave as they scramble to sit atop the blogosphere’s top shelf. They treat exposure like an enterprising vine, climbing over anyone and anything to soak in the warmth of admiring eyes. In the process, their ugly mug becomes what a trench coat is to an exhibitionist: a quick way to cause a scene.

The Black Opera operates within that scene. Self-described as a collective of “Artistic Freedom Fighters,” calling them solely a hip-hop group would be an injustice far worse than the ones they rap about. TBO principally exists within the realm of hip-hop which means good things for the rest of us but, in contrast to their peers, they have actively pushed against the tide of attention whoring. To them, their art outweighs the shine of their identity. And in that regard, they resemble hip-hop’s court jester MF DOOM, or his lesser known French counterpart Fuzati.

Attached to the label Mello Music Group, TBO have found a home where they can practice their brand of militant cultural disruption without compromising for the sake of YouTube hits. They've put together an advanced artistry that has attracted a horde of devout followers. Although they claim not to be a cult, they certainly have a cult following (and can name A&R exec Dante Ross and legendary Detroit producer House Shoes among it).

Even if their output has been far from flawless, it has never failed to impress in its scope. Presenting their work in eras, they introduced themselves to the world with The Black Op: Era I. Composed of three installments, the first era in their reign is a mad whirl of thick reverberations and dense lyrics.

Overture started things off in a style that only The Black Opera can describe. That is, the “[image of] fossils coming to life before your eyes to move in a unified march of defiance.” Not your typical trap leanings, for sure. Released just a few months later, EnterMission, the second installment in their introduction era, proved to be an example of the growth they’ve undergone in little time. Finally, Libretto: of King Legend, the latter bookend to The Black Op: Era I, was their ambitious attempt to piece together an origin story for a legend that might have no beginning or end. Understanding that they occupy a world where social media complicates the maintenance of their anonymity, The Black Opera have decided to counter it by creating a thicker shroud of mystery.

In one of their most uncompromising visions to date, they flipped A$AP Rocky’s “F*ckin’ Problem” to rap about the ills of America. In an effort to remain optimistic, we won’t name them all, but let’s say it’s a direct response to the latest mass school shooting. In typical TBO fashion, they just don’t call out America’s gun laws, but Americans themselves as the root cause of the country’s steady deterioration. What other hip-hop artist would rather put up a mirror to their audience’s complicity in violence-torn America, than to hold it up in admiration of themselves?

Spread the warning : no one other than hip-hop’s most mysterious group, The Black Opera.

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