Album review: Deus Eyeslow — Lyrical Voodoo

Oklahoma has long been viewed as a mecca for songwriters and hell on earth for rappers. But that’s not necessarily the case, certainly not as of late.

While John Fullbright, Parker Millsap and John Moreland make a name for themselves on a national scale, so too do Josh Sallee, Jabee and Johnny Polygon.

It’s the state for the underdogs, the fighters, the storytellers, its humble plains and prairie towns birthing the homegrown, blistering truths that mark the very best folk and hip-hop songs. Suddenly, the formerly barren Sooner State is feeling as fruitful a birthing place for quality emcees as anywhere else around.

Along comes Oklahoma City rapper Deus Eyeslow, the ice to Sallee’s fire (or the bag of Funyuns to Polygon’s blunt), and with his third mixtape, Lyrical Voodoo, he feels primed and ready to ascend to the local scene’s upper echelon rather than fall back with the rest of the pack. The charismatic record is chock-full of whip-smart, progressive party rap brought to life with an ease that’s hard to come by — a glassy-eyed daze but racing mind echoing Curren$y or Schoolboy Q.

That’s the glue that holds this eclectic collection — immaculately curated and created by producer Shawny C — together while the album shifts anywhere from vintage Snoop Dogg (“Outlaws”) to the jazz-bent work of the early ’90s (“Daddy’s Lil Girl”). Lyrical Voodoo is an apt descriptor; the album is an intoxicating cocktail of all things hip- hop, and a deadly one at that.

Opener “Riches” sets the bar high from the outset, finding Deus riffing over a skittish trip-hop beat and nailing a quality earworm hook in just over a minute. “Lost Soul” doubles up on that success. These moments provide the clearest glimpse of the emcee’s artistic future.

Deus has a sharp sense of humor (the South Park/Mr. Garrison sample in “Needles” is an unexpected but wholly inspired choice), and it’s one that he sprinkles as liberally through Lyrical Voodoo as Childish Gambino. But not every punch line lands; jokes fall flat, boasts feel empty and some hooks are a little too breezy for their own good.

More troublesome are the serviceable but nondescript entries like “Kings” or “Pay Me” — songs that might serve as highlights elsewhere but feel like requisite, Hip-Hop 101 placeholders here.

The MF Doom-divined “Muhuwahaha,” the bluesy “Stars” and the mesmerizing “Lady Sophie’s Disguise” are thoroughly more enjoyable. These songs find the wordsmith flexing his tongue- twisting muscle and husky voice more like a supervillain than a disposable henchman.

And that the 20-year-old Deus Eyeslow could feel so imposing — even in bursts — so early in his career is a telling sign. He is just a little time and personal growth away from flipping the switch to full-time lyrical monster from part-time musical menace.

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