January 7, 2020

Cuban Pete - 5 Pointz EP Review

Cuban Pete, our resident U.K. emcee, is back with Wu affiliated producer, Falling Down, with the graffiti-themed 5 Pointz EP! 


As we've come to know Cuban Pete from our interview last year, his passions include graffiti art, since he is also a visual artist with his company C75 Live. It's no wonder that 5 Pointz (named after the now torn down New York mural space) would feature 5 specifically designed tracks tailored and named after 5 different legends in the world of graffiti art.

The street artist INSA, who specializes in trippy and almost optical pieces (can you say painted, animated street GIFs??) that could make any passersby's eyes pop out of their skull, takes the first track of the EP. Falling Down's
‘c’est la vie’
opening sample of a female vocalist singing "never, never die" works as a note on the legacy of artists, while INSA himself opens with a comment on how the big idea of street art is making it outside as opposed to making art on a computer, making its creation an entirely human (not digital) effort. His life is mostly private since he wants his art to speak for itself, and Cuban Pete pulls out the big guns with Falling Down to commemorate the work that this man has done thus far. Pete raps "blessing them with pieces created from my fingertips, I'm Hanz On like Method Man affiliates, perfectionism is a schism in my psyche, admirable at times, but can turn around and bite me, the latter most likely" and then "everything on hold until I throw it out my system, a gift and a curse, my work greatly received, but at times it suffocates, I'm barely able to breathe." The track is then processed with cuts and scratches by the talented DJ Erex, aimed to put more fuel in the tank, with such cuts like "never give up" and "perfecting the craft." In the second verse, Pete questions it all, his life's purpose, and what all this art is worth, but admits it's his relentless drive to take his craft ever higher.

DONDI, the second graffiti legend to grace the 5 Pointz EP, is also the first single of the EP.


Tellin About Anno Domini (trad.2) - 1986
His rise to prominence resulted in many of the graffiti styles we see today, and his techniques still inspire generations of younger artists. His signature style included readable lettering and even some more stylistic and abstract pieces, and he was known to hit up train cars, as featured in Pete's single artwork. Sadly, he passed away in 1998 from AIDS. The track opens with DONDI's own words as he comments on his search for a safe space to work without having his work erased and how he settled on the subway yard to paint his pieces. He states that his work naturally evolved from this need, and that he never had to compromise his artistic vision. Falling Down's triumphant beat kicks it into high gear as DONDI finishes his thought, and Pete gets it in with his perspective in life ("smile, you got it, flaunt it") and his observance of others who got it wrong ("too worried about their likes and their cash flow"). Cuban Pete's lyrical hammer comes down on social media fakes and phonies in this one.

Crazy Legs & Mr. Freeze at Common Ground, Manhattan
Henry Chalfont is the iconic photographer and videographer who rose to fame from his documentation of graffiti, breakdance, and hip-hop that took the world by storm. Starting out as a sculptor in the 1970s, Chalfont soon switched to the camera as a storytelling device and began his decades-long study of the hip-hop and graffiti culture. His track opens with his own learned wisdom of the movement, "it was only years later when I actually started to meet graffiti writers, and after I have taken a lot of pictures of it, did I understand from their point of view, that it was a voice, and more than just fun." The beat then steps into the fold, as a murderous track about the camera and surveillance system as it's being turned against us nowadays. Graveyard Shifter and Cuban Pete remind listeners that we are on the cusp of humanity's greatest fight, for our privacy and for our lives. Pete's chilling verse is all too real today as he raps "watch, people stop and stare, film the victim," and "Alexa the snitch can't save you, f*ck that b*tch!" Graveyard Shifter gets down and dirty with his verse as well, as he raps about end-times, war, secret bunkers, and what the elite have planned for the masses.

Futura, the fourth track on this record, got his start in the '70s tagging the New York City subways. Through the years, he has shown his work in galleries, and even collaborated painting live backdrops on stage for European punk-rock band The Clash, and even ventured into graphic design and album artwork. His signature graffiti style is abstract works, as can be seen here with him, and sometimes even futuristic looking art, which is fitting for his name. He states in his track his feeling of the world wide web and how after being well-received in Japan, the Internet made the world start to feel smaller and tighter knit with international communications. This track is the final Cuban Pete solo cut, and the beat is blessed yet again by Falling Down with an Eastern musical vibe baked into the synths. "Catch me mixing paintbrush with the pixels," Pete raps as he comments on his passions. "Me and the day job in showdown, guns drawn, never-ending battle, from dusk till dawn." Pete's resilience and perseverance shine brightest on Futura, and his end product is inspiring to say the least. DJ Erex takes Pete's vox and spins and scratches them to a satisfying conclusion.

The final song on 5 Pointz features the "Godfather of Graffiti", as SEEN is known. His fame is credited to his use of bright lettering, cartoon characters, and bringing the movement to the doors of commercial art galleries. He has since opened a wildly successful tattoo studio in New York, and still to this day creates brilliant mixed media (paintings, sculptures, etc.). He describes the adrenaline rush of painting and the therapeutic effect of creating art, something that we covered in our Essay #3 last week. We get a trio of hip-hop legends in this one: Karnage Ca$hman and B. Dvine join Cuban Pete in this final number, and they rap about what they've seen in their years in the hip-hop game. Pete reminds that there's No Wannabeez Allowed. DJ Erex makes some final scratches, "I seen the gimmicks, the wack lyrics." Karnage delivers a verse about the disgusting wack emcees who should quit before it's too late or else receive the 5 Pointz in the form of his fist. B. Dvine repeatedly hits hard with all the weak rappers and the life's struggles he's seen.

Cuban Pete's latest release works on multiple levels, and the sum of its parts takes it onto a higher plain than most hip-hop releases today. Together, with Falling Down, DJ Erex, and his guest emcees, Cuban Pete crafts the ultimate love letter to graffiti artists everywhere and successfully combines his two life's passions.

5 Pointz EP - 9/10

Recommended Tracks: Henry Chalfont, Futura, Seen

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