Chesky Raps It Home for the New Year

Many of us enter the New Year with a mixture of sorrow for our losses and hope for what lies ahead. While there's no right way to celebrate 2019's symbolic new start, one approach to creating space for the new is to pause long enough to acknowledge our lives and environment for exactly what they are at the present moment.

Cue David Chesky's Rap Symphony 2.0, a reworking of Chesky's original release currently available in download and video form. Back in ancient times—2014 to be exact—Chesky penned the first iteration of his Rap Symphony with the thought of creating a new type of hybrid music where what he described as "the world of the highbrow symphonic and the street" would converge to express his vision of life in New York City.

"I'm not living in the Swiss Alps overlooking Lake Geneva," he says in liner notes to the revised Rap Symphony 2.0. "I live in the city with people on the subway saying, 'Yo, motherfucker! Get the fuck outta my face!' And I wanted to take this and put it into this symphony. Art has to reflect that reality.

Heavy stuff, yes. But instead of giving us a noisy hectoring rant that sounds like a hip-hop version of the New York subway system during rush hour, Chesky has created a masterfully multi-tracked, surprisingly musical symphonic excursion that mixes rappers Mike Two and Leber's recitation of Chesky's tell-it-like-it-is lyrics with an ominous but nonetheless enthralling sonic landscape that, like a photograph of abandoned housing complexes in the Bronx, pulls you in. Rather than overwhelming the musical fabric, the men's rap becomes an organic part of the whole in a way that will gain great appreciation from those who cringe at the sound of crassly produced hip-hop.

Auditioned in 24/48 multiple times with multiple amplifiers—hey, it's what you do when you're comparing amplifiers for a review— and also seen in video form, Chesky's Rap Symphony 2.0 is a tour-de-force. Sporting new music and 90% more rap "geared towards what's going on with government and big business taking over," the revised symphony has any number of haunting refrains, including the mantra, "the Amazon God." Its dark-toned orchestration, which ranges from deep bass drums to bells, gongs and triangles, is a sonic treat of sorts.

Given that Rap Symphony 2.0 is 19:16 in length, Chesky fills out the download with two other works, Street Beats for Percussion Quartet and Central Park Dances Nos.1–3. Street Beats is the most uplifting and irresistible work of the lot, as well as a great test for a sound system. I like it a lot. Central Park Dances, by contrast, reflects some the contradictions and antagonisms of the urban landscape. Think of those places in Central Park where you suddenly discover yourself at a high fence, peering down at bumper-to-bumper traffic, or the time that you were walking through the park in bliss when, all of a sudden, you discovered a skateboarder making a racket as they pierced right through your reverie.

If you treat classical music solely as an escape, head to The Lark Ascending or an early Mozart Symphony, or get thee to a nunnery. But if you're willing to entertain one person's unflinching vision of the world as it is today, by all means take a listen.

jporter's picture

For 30 years I have been waiting for a sign that rap has finally run its course. This awful piece of music is it. Cheers!

argyle_mikey's picture

Classic pseuds corner material. Start reviewing stuff that real people will listen to.

DougM's picture

If I want a taste of street life in NYC I'll watch West Side Story. Chesky ain't no Bernstein.
Hip Hop culture has done as much damage to our country and the black community as drugs and Trump have. Kids need real heroes to look up to, not violent foul mouthed drug dealers in Ferraris posing as "artists". Teaching kids that being disrespectful punks and violent thugs is cool isn't cool. And it gets many of them killed. Look at the violence running rampant in Chicago.