Two tales intertwine here: The first strand is that of Durham's veteran DJ crew, "The World Famous Butta Team"—the most important hip-hop posse in the history of the Triangle, but one that remains largely unsung. The second is a big, doe-eyed 19-year-old from Durham, Kourvioisier Richmond, who recently fell under the tutelage of one of those DJs, Skaz Digga, who doubles as Big Daddy Kane's official DJ.
In these parts, many of the reputable hip-hop artists (and I'm going to get in trouble for saying this, since getting called out hurts) have been long stroking their own feathers. They seem to have forgotten that there may come a day when some no-name kid might emerge and force them to rethink their flimsy raps and empty microphone overloads. Some emcees are content to caress tracks, while others beat beats into triage, without hesitation.
Kourvioisier, as it turns out, is in the latter talent pool, and he might just be that kid, too. On The Return of the Golden Era, his Skaz Digga-hosted debut mixtape, we're introduced to a beastly young talent who, if you believe in reincarnation, must have been on this Earth before, marching early rap ciphers into battle. Otherwise, how could a voice so fresh render tunes like "East Coast Jackin'," "I Love the '80s," and "West Coast Jack Move"? On those stylistic workouts, Kourvioisier ambushes the songs by swiping beats from classic tracks, skipping between several of them on any given number and mimicking the original artists with a flair that's all his own. During a short segment of "West Coast Jack Move," for instance, he lifts the beat from Above The Law's 1994 "Black Superman," then shucks and chides: "Black Clark Kent without an S on my chest/ replaced with a K/ An animal koala wit' braids/ in honor of me/ These adolescents need to behave." Only a few years past adolescence himself, he sounds like a studied hip-hop student who could be better than his teachers. Even at his tender age, he is an astute observer of a disheveled and often uninspiring environment, delving into topics concerning his relation to the rest of the world—likely an effective vestige from his days as a serious spoken-word poet. On "Still I Rise," he borrows first the title from Maya Angelou and then the track, "Grown Simba," from J. Cole. He explains the turmoil: "Down and out so you figured I won't get back straight/ I reappeared in the flesh/ I ain't get that break/ I want a slice, but I ain't get that cake/ Could have waited, I ain't get that day/ So to him I pray..."
Kourvioisier is a verbose sort, and The Return of the Golden Era might be a bit much for some. But these aren't the second-rate freestyles of a B-list rapper. Rather, Kourvioisier bedevils beats supplied by Skaz's production team, Panama Red, in a way that few other Triangle emcees ever have, ripping apart both the beats and the tired gallery of emcees who aren't quite up for head-to-head battle with this sort of wolfing. Throughout the mixtape, Skaz and Kourvioisier gather friends and fellow Triangle upstarts Thee Tom Hardy and Ricky Ruckus. Kourvioisier consistently gets the best of them: "Do not recommend simple syllables/ sample subliminals/ nerve struck/ terrible the intention," he lets loose in one instance. "KRS the teacher/ I'm the sub/ Now you got detention/ double loser who recycled in defeat/ The stripes get beat off of Tigers who wanna cheat."
"Tell me, who let these wack boys in the market/ without being incredible artists?" Kourvioisier asks. It's a question no one has found the answer to, but one it seems that the young gladiator might put to rest himself. Certainly, some listeners will want him to relax, to not be so "rappity-rappity-rap." Let him go, though: It sounds like he might become an indestructible whirlpool of mega-energy, obliterating all of the undesirable rap matter we've all become so adjusted to here.