by Alex P80 Parks
When Teller Bank$ and Blaq Knight first connected last year on Hellfire & Brimstone, a formidable duo was created, combining truly unique vocals and rapid rhymes over beats that maintain a dark and ominous vibe with a few lighter, soulful moments to uphold a variable listening experience. The True & Living continues the great chemistry between Blaq and Teller in the second chapter of their sonic journey.
Teller describes of how Hellfire & Brimstone, the first chapter, came together in this saga of Blaq Knight and Teller Bank$.
Teller: “I feel like it’s important to know the backstory before I go into detail on True & Living… So in Hellfire & Brimstone the backstory is shit that was goin on in my life was fucked. Like deadass everything. Gramma passed, my wife divorced me at the funeral and my health was fucked. My mom was goin through it too, my whole mental was fucked. I made prolly like 3-4 albums, self produced, of like the most depressing shit of all time haha.. I was like engulfed in all this terrible shit. The whole time I’m listening to WSG and Conway, thinking like ‘I love how dark this shit is; like this matches my rage but I can’t produce like this. I’m just not givin a fuck so the music is all resonating with me real well. And then I found that first beat from Blaq. ‘No Mercy.’ I hit him like yo, deadass stalked this n***a and made him interact with me till we developed a relationship. When I recorded ‘No Mercy’ I mean… you hear it, ya know? At that time I was readin the Bible a lot and my situation kinda reminded me of Sodom & Gomorrah; like I was surrounded by all the terrible depression and bad shit for years and years and when I finally got my way out or it all got destroyed and burned down anyway, I had to run and never look back. But it’s hard because as dark and evil as that place was, it was home.. that’s how Hellfire & Brimstone got its name and art.”
Teller: “At the end of H&B, with the different more lighter tone of ‘Thellin’ its more open-ended.. Like it’s the precursor to True & Living; a segue into the next story. And every story is like the hero story…”
Taking a different direction from the shadowy Hellfire & Brimstone, Blaq Knight returns with his brand of punchy drums, thunderous bass and unique blends of samples. This particular go around, Blaq and Teller develop a less murky and bleak tone overall. Teller himself describes it as “sonically brighter.” Never soft, but always full of soul and emotion.
Teller: “With my music I want to take people on a journey, a pilgrimage. I feel like with both these projects, I’ve done that. ”
“Lamb of God” whooshing synths and bluesy plucked guitar strings combine over a stuttering snare as Teller ascends on the album opener. On “6AM” blaring horns and a gorgeous vocal loop all combine over a thumping beat for Teller to wreak havoc.
“I’ma need like a hundred or sumthin
Of everything that I ever done wanted
Hey, fuck them other n***as always frontin
It’s open season, n***a always huntin
Runnin they mouth, when they see me they runnin
N***as paid for the plays but ain’t gettin paid to play, they on some slave shit.”
His vocal intensity may begin a bit reigned in here but not his quick delivery, as Teller continues to show his crazy lyrical speed especially as the verse comes to an end.
The hypnotic vocal and piano loops of “Trigonometry” seem drugged and hazy, yet awake. after every few bars, the vocal sample breathes to allow just enough warmth into the track. The drums knock plenty as Teller tiptoes his quick verse on over beat.
“Had to get it, it was automatic
Had a habit, it was hard to drop it
Drop a n***a like bad passes,
Had to flip it, almost lost the package
Water whippin, I might have to rock it
Rock the Pippens, feel Like Randy Savage
Line of scrimmage, hundred yards past it
Did the dash, stoppin ain’t a option.”
Blaq goes more atmospheric on “4602” as Teller delivers some honest rhymes with insightful lyrics; the pain in his voice clear as he tells of family and struggles he’s endured. “Dragons Breath” feat SeKwence and Pro Zay As Blaq Knight creates a pulsating beat with a synth harpsichord sounding like some Castlevania shit, all 3 emcees deliver their own brand of rhymes. SeKwence drops his raspy croaking flow and adds a second verse after Teller brings his high energy and quick delivery. Pro Zay comes in with his strained vocals to close out this uptempo joint. The youthful spitters solidly connect with Blaq Knight on this track.
check it here:
Certainly a unique and quirky beat is “Lil Mcbeanpie Headass.” Using a rich almost psychedelic sample with organs, a bouncing bass line and unique vocal part, Teller stays in pocket. “Redemption” sports a 70’s soul loop chopped up, featuring rising vocals, smooth horns and sweeping strings. With “Fallen” Blaq Knight finds a great balance in beats like this with the somber melody over uptempo dusty snare and bass. Teller spits lines like:
“Might never do another interview,
Might never make another interlude
I’m a inner tube in a swimming pool, full of n***as drownin
they reaching like its they last hope, they’re all around me, surroundin”
On the “The Love of Misery” Teller is having a great time over jumping piano keys, bouncing drums and ever-so-subtle beautifully soulful vocal notes. Check the track here:
Teller: “Its a sermon, like the first lesson is H&B, this is the next lesson I chose.. Both out the Bible, the events are sequential but the message is there.”
Teller’s songs are truly an extension of himself, as he raps with an incredible energy and passion. He is not one to ever hide behind a façade. Even the cover art for True & Living created by the young, talented Ben MultiiAssassin Haleber depicting a jesus-like figure covered in blood and surrounded by bodies could be viewed by some as somewhat controversial.
Teller: It’s kind of like Metal Gear Solid. Same universe overall, same battle of good and evil but different characters, different eras ya know? It’s more tied by the lesson than the actual series of events… The story ain’t chronological though, ya know? It’s like the same thing. My albums with Blaq are like my bible so it’s like it’s spans a lot of shit so True & Living isn’t a direct sequel to H&B; they’re different chapters in the same book. I’m leaving it open because I don’t know how many I’ll actually do with Blaq, ya know? But it’s essentially like my bible. Hellfire was darker and more pain. Where True and living is more the life and tribulation.”
“The first part of the journey is get out of the home, In Hellfire, it’s all about the trials and tribulations, whereas True and Living is like the prodigal return, like the return of Jesus, where I came back with my version of justice, the way I wanna handle it.”
Teller handles it well, with his undeniably sharp rhymes that leave listeners breathless trying to keep up with his inimitable flow. Blaq Knight continues to prove how underrated and capable he really is at crafting some of the most intriguing beats that capture raw emotion and maintain the heart of dope hip hop.
The album will be available on 4/13 here:
peep the review of 2018’s Hellfire and Brimstone here: