Guitar-focused hip-hop has never been an easy proposition. For every Beyonce country-western banger like “Daddy Lessons,” interesting blues-hybrid like the late R. L. Burnsides, or even the sometimes-cringeworthy-but-also-kinda-good folk of Everlast, there’s ill-advised-and-un-asked-for crossovers like Run DMC and Aerosmith’s “Walk This Way,” or snarky, jokey country covers like “Boys In The Hood” by Dynamite Hack.



It doesn’t seem like it should be so difficult, given American music’s common roots in the Blues and African-American music, but truly exceptional guitar/hip-hop hybrids are so rare and special. This is why Gabriel Black’s “Freedom” is such a chilling, powerful, noteworthy event.

soundcloud First of all, “Freedom” doesn’t sound exclusively like a rock ‘n roll take on hip-hop. Yes, there is flying, frenetic fretwork from Black’s soulful lead guitar, but it’s not the first detail to strike the ears. “Freedom” creeps in with a heavy, ominous bassline, with Gabriel Black’s sweet vocals calling for a sweet vision for the future. Black’s rapping even swims into focus before his guitar virtuosity - he’s as adept at turning a phrase as busting a wicked solo. It’s hard enough to find a truly gifted rapper, producer, or guitarist - let alone all three, wrapped up in one talented up-and-coming producer.

Gabriel Black’s “Freedom” explores a similar vibe to Beyonce’s song of the same name, bringing together blurry, retro soul jazz and fiery rhymes. Here’s to hoping we can summon enough songs of freedom to usher in a new age - fair and just for everybody. We here at We Are: The Guard certainly hope so.

J. Simpson occupies the intersection between criticism, creativity, and academia. Based out of Portland, Or., he is the author of Forestpunk, an online journal/brand studying the traces of horror, supernatural, and the occult through music, fashion and culture. He plays in the dreamfolk band Meta-Pinnacle with his partner Lily H. Valentine, with whom he also co-founded Bitstar Productions, a visual arts collective focused on elevating Pop Culture to High Art.