Seattle and hip hop. The two are becoming more and more
connected, thanks in large part to the mainstream success of Macklemore &
Ryan Lewis, but also due to the strong underground careers of the Blue
Scholars, Common Market, up and comer Raz Simone, and of course our nostalgic
hero the great Sir-Mix-A-Lot.
Enter NOM Pérignon,
1/5 of the hip-hop collective .nuLOVE.
Recently relocated from Iowa to Seattle, .nuLOVE consists of Boycott, producer Jharee,
NOM Pérignon, Booka, and Freakmite. Jharee handles much of the
production on NOM’s solo album Esoteric Allusions, and the other
group members feature on a few of the tracks as well.
NOM Pérignon, aka Michael Westerfield, calls himself an
artist, lyricist, songwriter, actor, and visionary on their website, and listening to the album from cover to cover provides evidence of how these many titles can be rolled together into one person.
Esoteric Allusions is
a dark album, as the artwork suggests, and it’s expansive lyrics contain many
references to the artists’ grimy upbringing. Yet NOM’s goal here is to educate.
The project opens with “Allusion”, with a woman’s emotional voice proclaiming
“Let me lay down my words in you so you know how I feel/All I have for you are
layers to peel”. Haunting strings grow to a crescendo, and as the drums blow in
and a melancholy sample is added to the beat, NOM beings his first verse.
Listening to the album it immediately becomes apparent that
NOM is a gifted lyricist, with frequent wordplay and a skilled use of
alliteration harnessed to a confident flow. On the opener he raps “Soul
searching is the sole source of my sorcery”, and tracks such as “Happy
Feelings_Hopeless Protests”, “Ghetto Boy”, and “Crossroads” provide more than
enough evidence for why such musings create a shady art.
Blues” is an impressive stream of consciousness where NOM relates multiple
perspectives, of both a frustrated girlfriend and a dealer out of options
making one last phone call, and ends with him explaining that he will rise
above and travel “wherever the wind take me”. The beat is indeed reminiscent of
a chilling, whistling wind, overlaid with a clattering snare.
Jharee’s production throughout the album is superb,
complementing the messages the lyrics deliver and fleshing out the murky nature
of the mixtape. Yet all is not depressing on the album. The mercurial nature of
relations with the opposite sex is addressed on “Good Evening” and Find Your
Loving”, with the latter featuring a stellar verse from Chicago native Freddie Old Soul.
At the beginning of the mixtape, NOM raps “I ease on down
the road less travelled/where it’s way less paved and way more gravel”,
illustrating his struggle to find success coming from a position where success
is not the norm. Esoteric Allusions
may be his first project, but NOM Pérignon has made serious progress in blazing
his own path to find ever-elusive success.
There is much to be taken from this album. I am only
scratching the surface as far as the depth of material covered on the 15
tracks, so I highly recommend downloading the album for free here and seeing for yourself what Seattle has to offer up next in the world of rap.