This album was released on November 27th this year. Back when I still had an active Patreon account, one of my longtime readers requested an album review for Beneath the Toxic Jungle by Rav. I think that was my first time hearing any artists from EXOCIETY, which at the time was called Exordium Music. It was either Beneath the Toxic Jungle or …&more…’s Existence Is Existential. I can’t really remember exactly what my first introduction to the label was. I went on to cover a handful of other releases from the crew in late 2017 and early 2018. I feel like I didn’t really start fucking with their stuff until last year though. I mean, I liked them at first, but I started loving them last year. It’s not even that their shit got exponentially better. For whatever reason their stuff just started clicking with me. I kinda hate all the old reviews I did for a lot of their stuff. I definitely underrated Beneath the Toxic Jungle & Ramona by Kill Bill. I even like VESTIGES now way more than I originally did, and I gave that a really positive review last year. I think one thing that’s helped me get into Rav even more is the content he uploads to YouTube with Bill on their Chibi Chubby channel. I’m not even into video games like I used to be, but I just really enjoy watching them play random shit. We Don’t Suck has also become my favorite podcast over the past year. It’s only real competition right now is the Lupe & Royce Show, but I definitely think Rav & Bill are funnier. That story about Kill Bill’s acquaintance having a bad acid trip was riveting to me. Also, shoutout to Shark-E for all the artwork he does for the channel. That dude is super talented. Speaking of super talented artists, I really dig the album cover that kinjiro did for this record as well. Anyway, Rav has mentioned this project a few times on the podcast, but I wasn’t really sure if we’d be getting it this year. I was honestly expecting it to come out some time next year. I really don’t know why, but that’s neither here nor there. Since my affinity for EXOCIETY’s music is bolstered by every project I hear from them, I had pretty high expectations for this record, and it thankfully ended up exceeding them.
There aren’t any tracks that I don’t like on this record, so I’m gonna talk about it in the proper order of the track listing. It opens up with a major highlight entitled Dandelions. I think Scuare‘s soft production here is absolutely gorgeous. I love how there’s no percussion. It really fits Rav’s voice perfectly. This isn’t something you’ll notice on the first listen of the album, but the way the closing track of this projects ends is a direct reference to the way the record begins. I’ll explain more when I get to that song. Anyway, I think the opening verse here is beautiful.
First time that I kissed someone, all the world lost its urgency
Felt my wings extend full span, but time's corroded them mercilessly
Stiff, my breath ain't as resolute; can't see past the stupendous walls
Scared of shame, I shroud my scars, sensing sand slipping out my palms
Always struggled grasping time; the more I take, the less I have
Hopes that used to fuel my walk have since been sapped all the strength I had
All I wish I would never change seems oh so different now
I'm no longer making any wishes, dandelion seeds hit the ground
That hourglass metaphor was really cool. One artist that Rav has started reminding me a lot of is Sadistik. They have a good amount of crossover in terms of subject matter, and they both have very eloquent writing styles. Sadistik is definitely way more verbose, which I personally don’t really think is a good or bad thing. It’s just a difference. I mean, they definitely go for very different sounds too. I just think they’re both very poetic, and I put them in similar categories when it comes to the content. Anyway, I think Rav’s soft singing on the hook sounds amazing, and I love the flute that comes in during this part too. The second verse from Kill Bill is of course fire as well. His voice is on the opposite end of the spectrum, but it still fits really well over this instrumental.
Flutter past passions Life was a vast mattress I felt your wings turn into fins, I guess we swimmin' now We made a home within this wishing well; you get it? Well, we picked through every coin we found And wished we'd found the point we drowned We built a fortress from the fortunes from above Dreams amorphous, it was gorgeous, but of course it was your drug
Gotdamn these motherfuckers know how to write. Bill reminds me more of Aesop Rock, mainly due to his voice. I think they sound kinda similar sometimes. Particularly on that song Frostbite, which is my favorite track from him. Anyway, I think this song is amazing. I have zero gripes with it at all. It’s dope af. The second track is called Me? Never. This one is produced by Rav & channel select, and I think out of all the songs on the album it’s definitely gonna be the most fun at live shows. The content is still pretty dark, but the overall sound is way more energetic. It kinda has an old school feel to it in my opinion. Believe it or not, the first person I thought of when I heard Rav start rapping was Eminem. The tone of Rav’s voice just kinda reminded me of old school Em. Once again, Rav’s writing here is top notch.
Pitter-pattered on the eggshells like I didn't matter Then I try to compensate and find a different pattern You see I'm flawed at my core, I need to split the atoms Quit this planet and finally take a trip to Saturn "GET HIM OUTTA HERE," the voices say, "SWITCH THE CHANNEL" And so I fight still despite losing initial battles
The hook kinda reminded me of MC Paul Barman too. I love how I’m just throwing out a ton of random white rappers at this point. I swear I’m not doing that on purpose. Those are genuinely actual comparisons that came to mind. Anyway, the cuts that come in during the hook sound really cool, and I really love the second verse too.
I seek validation I'm as fragile as a shattered plate is An amalgamation of a thousand shavings Of self-doubt and self destructive salivations My body is a cage, my mind's the captive waiting And it's been trapped for ages You see, I used to think it had the key But now it's clear I cannot leave So optimism has since long abandoned me Inside my own anatomy These days my shades of blue only ever speak candidly
You can tell he didn’t just shit these verses out in five minutes. It sounds like he put a lot of time into making each line connect. I think the song’s super dope. Track three is another highlight—they’re all highlights tbh—called Molasses. The production from Kill Bill is relatively melodic and low-key, and it feels more downtempo. Rav’s actual flow is more fast paced here though. I love his opening verse here too. He killed this shit.
Goalpost keep on shifting, I Keep on drifting while feeling misaligned Bringing scissors to a fucking pistol fight Bringing pistols to a nuclear missile crisis I could host a ball, see the guests arrive See their cheer, and feel like I ain't get invited Food for thought: there's no pesticide For what bugs my brain, so I'll let it fly
I think the sung hook from Scuare sounds phenomenal. His verse is really great too, and I love the way Bill comes in behind him for the final verse. He killed this shit.
Every step I take I feel my heels scraping bedrock Frozen between modes, watch me decompose, what a joke Slide between 'em, confide; my demons watching me I think I'm swimming in the ink I sold my soul with Beginning to think my only goal switched When everything was dark you showed reflection I was guarded for my own protection Backed into a corner with my pride Self destruction was my only weapon
That ouroboros reference at the end of his verse was really cool too. My only minor nitpick with this song is that the repetitive beat gets a little old by the time the song ends since it’s a relatively long track, but it’s really not much of an issue for me. I think the song’s dope as hell. Track 4 is called Prosthetic Self-Love, and it might actually be the most relatable song I’ve heard all year. As the title indicates, the track is all about Rav’s perpetual struggle not to succumb to self-hate. Much like me, it seems as if his ability to love himself is dependent on the attention he receives from those whom he idolizes.
I'll give you both arms for a hand, both eyes for a glance
I'll allow you to decide when I dance
See as long as you have faith in me, I understand
That I am God, I am worthwhile, I'm the man
Yeah, I'll kill myself and pray that you notice
I'll kill myself and hope you feel sorry, even just for a moment
I'll speak a foreign tongue, anything to be heard
Anything just to prove I'm alive and have worth
I love the dismal tone of Rav’s production on this track too. It matches the content perfectly. The last tercet of the verse is perfect to me.
That's how it be
That's what I do
That's why I'm me
Something about this song kinda reminds me of Bastard era Tyler the Creator for whatever reason. Or maybe it’s more Goblinish. It’s kinda similar to the song Nightmare in my opinion. Anyway, I obviously think the song is dope af. Same goes for the following track, Channel F. The beat is a perfect follow up to that of the preceding track. They both have a similar aesthetic, but not so much so that it feels redundant. It’s just sonically consistent. Rav’s vocal delivery here sounds more distraught than it was on the preceding track. It definitely matches the content very well.
A whole lot of breakdowns, not enough breakthroughs Fill this void with distractions and obligations to evade you I keep trying to become someone you'll respect and love Even if that someone ain't me at all, but still it's best for us It's been a minute since I felt a buzz I guess it be that way; pray my heart adapts, and yet it never does And I'll reveal a million personal truths if I have to To distract you and myself from the actual cause of this vacuum
At certain points in the song it literally sounds like Rav is crying while rapping. In a good way though. It sounds fantastic to me.
How the fuck am I supposed to change myself when I don't know who I am?
Feeling overwhelmed again
I'm so scared of letting go, I wanna hold on to your hand
'Cause if I don't then I'ma fall and I don't know where I'm gon' land
Kill Bill comes in for the second verse, and his voice sounds amazing over this beat. I’ve noticed that I always love the way he sounds over these cold, kind of electronic sounding beats. Again, Frostbite is my favorite song of his. I just think the timbre of his deep voice fits over that sound perfectly. He fucking killed this shit too.
Been here before, I have to ask if we had ever left Rabbits share a breath with death, invested in the restlessness Talk in circles, walk in lines until the floor is lava Mirror-Moving in every turn, it was a gorgeous mantra I got so pretty playin' up the strength to hide the ugly It's either living eye to eye or let you die above me I'm laying in the bed I made, I'm sick of crying ugly I was the bullet in the brain inside the dying puppy
I have zero complaints. I think this song is fucking amazing. The penultimate track is the lead single for the album, Dead End.
This song recounts a super intense domestic altercation that Rav was involved in. It’s pretty fucked up. It makes for an insanely captivating song though. The opening verse begins with Rav kinda describing his attitude towards the relationship leading up to the aforementioned conflict.
Loosen up the knots we've tied, it's something I can't do myself
So despite my better judgement I will turn to you until
We can both figure this out 'cause all that I and you have built
Is worth the fight, even if it's mortifying, we'll prevail
So I ask a question, and then I ask another question
Without allowing you to first address the aforementioned
Moving past the passive, and they have been mad aggressive
Indirectly blaming you for all miscalculations
The tension accumulates over the course of this verse, and then shit gets really real right when it ends. Basically, Rav accidentally got stabbed. Yeah. Shit is crazy, fam. Mad ting, bruv. I love Rav’s jazzy production here. The horns that come in during the hook sound fantastic. I love the melody he sings here too. The second verse is fantastic.
Okay, right You put my hand around the wound, say "hold it tight" While you panic, search for dressings in our medical supplies I'm disoriented, feeling hollow as a poltergeist I'm getting cold, my face is wet, your face is close to mine What just happened? What just almost happened? We were just a moment away from a terrible disaster And there's no going backwards this time, no fixing what just shattered No laughter, no happily forever after
I love it. I think the song is dope af. The closing track is called To My Future Self, and it’s absolutely gorgeous. I really needed a song like this, and it couldn’t have come at a better time to be honest. I love Rav’s lush, fluffy production here. It sounds like a light purple cloud in the form of music. Rav’s singing here sounds fucking amazing to me.
If you're still alive, and you hear this, well then ni hao You'll never be perfect and this fact should calm you, so breathe in and breathe out Don't forget to let go No regrets, you can grow
I just feel like the fact that he’s giving himself this advice is really beautiful. I’ve done that before. Back when I was in high school I used to write myself notes that I would read in the future that helped me calm myself down when I was going through shit. This song literally feels like a hug in the form of music. I think it’s fucking incredible, and it’s honestly probably my favorite song that Rav has ever done. The writing is beautiful.
One step forward, two steps back
Don't be sad, it's just the way we dance
Scuare’s vocals sound perfect over this beat too. I couldn’t have asked for a better feature. I think this song is flawless. It’s dope af. Okay, so remember how I said the ending of this album directly references the beginning? This track ends with the sound of Rav blowing a dandelion. The very first line on the album is “dandelion seeds fill the sky, I remember making wishes once.” Do you understand what that means???? That’s his “future self” directly referencing the final track. Bruh. This shit is fucking ingenuous. The way he tied all that shit together to make it loop like that is brilliant. I love it.
This album is fucking amazing to me. It’s easily my favorite EXOCIETY release now, and one of the best projects I’ve heard all year. As a matter of fact, I genuinely think this is one of the most relatable albums I’ve ever heard. I really needed this shit, man. Rav was able to perfectly encapsulate the struggles of coping with depression and tragedy in just seven songs. He also produced almost every single track here, which wasn’t the case for his first album. I don’t really think these beats would blow me away as instrumental tracks, but they’re perfect for this project. Rav knew exactly what kind of beats to make for the content he was going for. I have zero consistent gripes with this project. There wasn’t really any room for error in the first place, and I think Rav delivered on all fronts. I can already tell this album is gonna get me through some dark moments. There’s not a single mid verse here. Every artist involved did a tremendous job. Do not sleep on this album. It’s dope as hell.