Theophany: The Book Of Elevations

Artist: RodanTitle: Theophany: The Book Of ElevationsRating: 4 StarsReviewed by: Brolin Winning

A founding member of fast-rising New York super-crew Monsta Island Czars (M.I.C.), Rodan has been doing his thing since the golden era; as a youngster in Long Island, he also rolled with KMD before they were signed to Elektra. In the past year, he's shined on the outstanding Czars debut album Escape From Monsta Island! and also contributed key verses to MF Doom's much-lauded King Geedorah and Viktor Vaughn projects. Known for his blistering flow and complex, intellectual lyricism, Rodan's first solo record, Theophany: The Book Of Elevations, has been a long time coming, and it's finally here.

Though certainly an underground release, make no mistake, this is a far cry from the "nerd-rap" that tends to dominate the subterranean scene. While his dense lyrics are undeniably informed, Rodan's subject matter is more akin to artists like Immortal Technique than Atmosphere. "Human Inquisition" finds him challenging the hypocrisy of America and dual sides of human nature, referencing Hiroshima, 9/11, Colin Ferguson, and the Greek mythology of Icarus, set to a fierce guitar-laced beat from M.I.C. co-conspirator Ravage. In a similar vein, "G.O.D. (O'mighty)" is a thought-provoking commentary about the power of the dollar and how the pursuit of financial gain affects individuals, corporations, and governments alike.

"Erotic Peaks" is a non-traditional romantic joint that balances hardcore but from-the-heart descriptions with chunky snare hits, mellow keys, and subtle porn flick samples, while "No Degrees" utilizes a classic bassline as a foundation to call out legions of under-qualified so-called emcees. "Stay on key like harmonicas / the prehistoric chronicler / pull shit like Chanukah / wearin niggas out like a yarmulke / you ain't got no degrees like a broken thermometer / stellar astronomical uncommon phenomena / Chronometer monitor / recorded biography / your cornball video wack-ass choreography / photograph slow-mo flash picture perfect analyst / handle this / more knowledge than a game show panelist."

Monster Island brethren represent on two excellent posse cuts; the string-fuelled "Roll Call" features Kong, Kamackeris, and Gigan, while Megalon, Jet Jaguar, King Ceasar, Loch Ness, and King Ghidera join the fray on "Run The Sphere v.2.3," an absurdly dope remix of the Czar's first official single released several years back. Other standout tracks include "No Snakes Alive Pt. II" (with Shaman), and the futuristic, Heat Sensor-produced closer "Ability To Speak (One Week)."

Produced mostly by in-house beat magician X-Ray, the album's sonic base fits Rodan's style to a tee, loaded with rugged drums, grimy samples, cinematic snippets, and an overall vibe that straddles the line between apocalyptic and inspirational. Unlike many of today's rappers, Rodan doesn't dumb down his style for commercial acceptance, instead coming with an unrelenting lyrical attack that demands repeated listening to really digest all the wisdom he drops. Theophany may be too hard for certain heads to fathom, but for those who see hip-hop as more than just theatrical thuggery, rhyme biting, and R&B hooks, this kind of record is exactly what we need more of. Well worth the wait, this is an exceptional LP from one of the most compelling emcees in the game today.