Album Review | Iceberg Theory & August Fanon – Serapeum (The Daughter Library)

This album was released on May 5th this year. If I’m not mistaken, this is the third album that Iceberg Theory released in 2020. I know he’s already put out at least five other projects after this one, and he might just drop another one by the time this review is published. The dude is super prolific, and it’s obvious that he’s not just phoning in every verse. He clearly puts a lot of effort into his writing, so it’s crazy how much material he’s released. Anyway, the Serapeum was apparently created in order to hold ancient texts that couldn’t be contained in the Great Library of Alexandria. For those of you who don’t know, this aforementioned library was basically an Egyptian hub of all research and knowledge starting during the reign of the pharaoh Ptolemy II Philadelphus, who ruled from 285 to 246 BC. The Daughter Library was basically established to hold stuff that didn’t fit into the Library of Alexandria. I really appreciate how literally every single time I check out an Iceberg Theory project I genuinely learn something new and interesting. I don’t know how this’ll compare to the preceding two projects that I heard from him, or if I’ll even enjoy it at all. I’m sure there’ll be at least some material here that I enjoy though.

There aren’t any songs that I dislike from this album, so I’ll write about the full thing in the proper order of the track listing. It starts off with a major highlight entitled Heiros Gamos. The opening clip sounds like a scene from a movie, but I’m not sure where exactly it comes from. It’s basically some old white guy with a British accent telling a woman with a British accent that they have to be very careful to preserve the Daughter Library and take care of everything it contains. It’s bizarre that whoever directed this presumed film chose to give them British accents since it was an Egyptian library, but I guess that’s not really relevant to the quality of the song itself. Anyway, as soon as August Fanon’s beat actually came on after this clip, I immediately made an O face.

This beat is fucking incredible. I love how dark & muddy the primary loop is, but then it’s juxtaposed with these really light twinkling bells that sound like musical raindrops. Iceberg Theory of course came in with some content that was actually unique, unlike most of the other MCs putting music out these days.

The cycles menstrual
The seed was a stencil
Left gentled in hemp robes
With cuts along the frontal lobe
Hunger rose
Urges uncontrolled
Like an Alchemist
Wield lead so I can plunder the gold

The reference to Paulo Coelho’s classic novel, The Alchemist, was really cool.

Bars was the wax seal, Venus somethin' I wrote
Operatin' on the body that was bloodless and cold
Whisper invocations that would summon a ghost
Dispense with all forms of knowledge 'cause there's nothing to know

The song actually has a pretty simplistic structure; it’s just one verse. Everything here is incredibly well executed though. It’s one of my favorite songs these guys have ever done. The way the dark production comes in right after the introductory audio clip ends just hits so hard, and of course the writing kept me hooked the entire time. I think the song is amazing to be honest. It’s dope af. It’s followed by another highlight entitled Rapture. Once again, August Fanon’s production here is superb. The electric guitar loop sounds absolutely gorgeous. Same goes for the horns. The first verse from Iceberg Theory is great.

Did the math like tax return, that's why the speech is taciturn
Cut him at the root, so attachments were purged
I been toiling away at magnum opus masterworks
But I found that Opus Dei was a master's work

I love how with literally every single song I hear from Iceberg Theory he references a term or concept that I’m unfamiliar with. I wouldn’t describe it as pedantic, but for me it’s definitely educational. I mean that in a good way. I can never sit through ancient history or theology courses, so this is probably the most entertaining way I can possibly absorb this type of information. He killed this shit. The second verse is performed by Flashius Clayton. I’ve never actually heard a full project from him, but I probably should check one out because he’s been really impressive on every feature I’ve heard, including this one.

The cash is earned, we traffickin' this work
Digital scales, physical sales, and packs of merch
Gettin' shipped, both domestic and international
The fans is lurkin' across the vast surface of the Earth
A verse from Flashius is worth 50 racks plus
Cash shit be lackluster, man, it get me gassed up
Like I mixed crack & dust, and sprinkled it in a blunt
Try to get the jump on me, I'm beatin' you to the punch

The subject matter from both the MCs on this track isn’t exactly consistent, but I don’t even really care. The rapping is too good for me to take issue with something like that. His verse was fire, and the outro from Iceberg Theory was really nice too. I might actually like this song more than the opening track to be honest. I still haven’t chosen a favorite track as of Friday, December 4th. This shit is fire though. I think it’s dope af. The next track is yet another highlight called Sangre de Christo. This track has a really nice, soulful vocal sample. The soft piano loop is really nice, and I think Iceberg Theory’s performance here is one of the best on the album to be honest.

It's revelation, doomsday preparation
The plague spread, the government took the land from the reservation
I was driving, no destination
Sangre de Cristo mountains, cathedrals and veneration

The structure isn’t really very different from any of the preceding tracks now that I think about it. He’s just rapping pretty much the whole time. He killed this shit though. His flow feels more aggressive here than it usually is.

Mummified golden ages, I awoke with the sages
Fire from cold cases, flier with gold bracelet
Shotgun pump, and your diastole breaking
I heard Christ was king, a sire with no nation

I remember disliking his singing on Rinpoche, but it didn’t really bother me when he sang along with the vocal sample here. I mean, I wouldn’t say his singing is particularly good, but I was just kind of indifferent towards it. It works in my opinion. Overall, I think the song is dope as hell. He killed this shit. The following track is called Adoration. I feel like at this point the production on this album started getting a lot jazzier. I really love the muffled, yet hard-hitting percussion here. The saxophone loop sounds really great. The opening verse from Ice is dope too.

Patience is a virtue I was made to extol
When you travel off-road, know your lane is your own
The less I spoke, the more language was honed
Knowledge is the basis homosapiens know
Between god and truth, it was truth plainly chose
The portal was a chasm in the Earth, a gaping hole

This song actually has a hook, unlike the preceding few tracks. It’s pretty simplistic, but it serves its purpose well enough. The second verse is performed by Tokyo Cigar, who killed it.

Right before the ship left the docks
I was watchin' ninja flicks, gettin' top
She swallowed and coughed
Then flew the coop
I took the volume off of mute
What's a war to a troop?
What's a sample to a loop?
And what's a ring to a hula hoop?

By the way, that project that Tokyo Cigar released with August Fanon as Haircut Ambiance back in April was pretty good, so check that out if you haven’t yet. Anyway, I think this song is dope as hell. The jazzy production from August is really nice, and both of the verses were great. The next track is called Glow. I really love how light and kind of bubbly the production here is. It sounds way more buoyant than any of the preceding material. It makes for a nice change of atmosphere. It’s still jazzy though. The pitch-shifted vocal sample sounds fantastic too. Anyway, the first verse here from Iceberg Theory is really dope.

Style been immaculate-fresh
Raise the battlements, bath of Baphomet
Hierophant from a Chaldean sect
Bury the body in the madre, put the bounty on read

This song features two artists named Eerf the Breathing Planet & Prynce P. I think Eerf goes first. His verse was really dope.

Praises be to my indigenous mommy
Baphomet get bodied like a hommy
Fuck these carbon copies
A thousand armies won't stop me
White sage all around my body

The closing verse from Prynce P is fire too. He might’ve actually had my favorite verse on the song to be honest.

When little niggas talk crazy it's obnoxious
My guy, stop it; don't make run them OshKosh's
I'm top notchin', low level nothin', forever huntin'
Gotta disinfect the cypher, and the circumference
Was taught to never punch-in
I been attentive since the second they had Tim Duncans
That's word to Dutch blunt skin

He killed this shit. Again, the features didn’t really stick to the same type of content that Iceberg Theory was rapping about, but it never felt too jarring. It’s not like when Rick Ross pops up on a feature to promote Wingstop. I think the song is really dope. The next one is called The Abbey of Genessee. This one’s really great. The beat kinda reminds me of Jay Electronica‘s Shiny Suit Theory. This beat definitely feels more detailed though. I mean, the beats don’t really sound that similar. I guess they just kind of have a similar atmosphere in my opinion. This one sounds like it could be in the soundtrack to an old Western film. Actually, maybe not a Western film. It’d probably be more fitting for a Martial Arts movie. Anyway, I think Iceberg Theory killed this shit. I feel like his performance here was relatively aggressive.

In Akkadian alphabets, coded the tongue
Left the Abbey of Genessee, now we in Goshen with the plug
Need a crib in the mountains, and one that's oceanfront
And wealth that never tarnish like the gold in the sun
Harrowin', the narrative unfolded and spun
Thought we reached the climax, but only begun
Leave the corpse in the open, and the vultures will come
I heed warnings from the underworld, and omens above

I actually think this is one of my favorite tracks on the album from a lyrical standpoint. He killed this shit. The song is dope as hell to me. The following track is called Julian of Norwich. This song really stands out from the rest of the album, mainly because it’s the longest track by a pretty wide margin. The vocal sample that August utilized here is really nice, and I actually think Ice sounds pretty decent when he sings along with it. The lyricism here really stands out too.

All we share are memories
Tomb of St. Clair, dead asleep, set the scene
This a love that could never be
The possibility will never let me breathe, let me breathe
Overseas, the sculptures so Matisse
And your company so at ease
On the balcony blowin' trees

This might actually be my favorite song on the album just from a lyrical standpoint. The writing had me hooked the entire time.

The flesh feels no fatigue
A moment in your presence feels like motion could cease
At Trastevere ain't pickin' up rosaries
I know our time wouldn't last, so make the most of it please
Make my heart skip a beat
I might fold at the knees
Tears I couldn't hold, so I weep

The beat switches up after about two and a half minutes. This second instrumental feels just as, if not more dreamy than the first one. I think I like it even more to be honest. Iceberg Theory killed this shit too.

Revelations, divine love
Angelic realms rise above, undying, corrupt
Sit at the riverbed; the sunrise, it was plush
I think about creation, and I wonder why it was
When non-existance is perfection, the timeless a rush
Flesh was the cry, sirens disguised the demonic lust
Crown of thorns in the briar was stuck
Piece of the pie, need a sizable cut, a violence erupts

Yeah. This shit is fire. It’s easily one of the best songs on the album to me. The length is definitely justified in my opinion. There are zero filler bars. The song is dope af. The following track is called The Rule of St. Benedict. This is another highlight for me. Once again, the production reminds me of something that’d be in a Martial Arts film. Not a fight scene though. It’d be one of the more emotional scenes. Again, Iceberg’s writing here is great.

Brought hex to a gunfight, the shit you can't miss with
Burn you like a leech if your energy parasitic
I took astrology, alchemy, metaphysics
Wisdom I'm sellin' like widgets, I never shift from my pivot
Magnetism is scientific, styles hidden
Self-annihilation is vivid
Deep in library, where the file's forbidden
No asylum was given, died in political prison

The song’s got a very straightforward structure. It’s just one verse, but it’s really goddamn great. I think it’s dope as hell. Track 9 is called The Feast of Balthazar. Once again, the production here feels very dreamy. The saxophone in the background is really damn nice. Of course Iceberg Theory’s writing here is great. I feel like the majority of this review is just me writing down excerpts of his verses, but they’re really interesting. The themes of ancient philosophy and mysticism are awesome.

God has numbered the days of your kingdom and brought it to an end
Portent saw the trends, lost friends come from a cloth you couldn't mend
From the source thoughts extend a page from the author's pen
Torment, unlawful intent, before the law there's always more to repent
The spirit's putrefaction, I'm recalling the stench
No rebirth without death, swear I was born again 

Not only is the content very unique for Hip Hop, but his writing is also very technically sound. He’s rhyming his ass off. I’m not crazy about the sung outro, but it’s not really that bad. It definitely doesn’t really stop me from enjoying the song. It’s a dope track. The next one is called Lost Time, and it has perhaps the prettiest beat on the whole record. That sample is gorgeous. The first verse from Iceberg Theory is dope. The second one is performed by an artist named The Cause, with whom I was unfamiliar before listening. I enjoyed his performance here though.

Keep it tucked, just in case they hit you with the blicky
Leave you with a hickey, only real MCs get me
Just a metaphor, you a underscore to me
Shot like four movies, and I gave my heart truly

The following verse comes from Jonathan Cloud. I’ve seen that guy’s name floating around Twitter a few times, but this is my first time actually hearing him. His voice reminds me of Wiki. He’s dope though. He probably had my favorite verse to be honest.

So ambitious how we strive for them riches
Hands sittin' on the counter while we countin' them digits
Stress pilin' up, the kinda shit that have you trippin'
Now they lookin' at you crazy, you askin' 'em "save me"
Had to turn this dirt to something amazing
All the well that I'm wishin', they been tryin' to erase me
The wheels keep turning, Regina Belle in circumference
First Lite, this is the standard of how we function
Keep that raw shit bumpin', we run shit, this an example

He killed this shit to be honest. I didn’t even quote his best lines. Even though they still weren’t exactly rapping about the same thing, I feel like these features were a bit more on the same page with the content. It works. The song is dope. Track 11 is called The Donor. This track has another one of my favorite beats. It’s really fucking cool. It kinda reminds me of something that could be in the Kingdom Hearts soundtrack. Obviously not one of the Disney-inspired levels. It’d have to be one of the original settings. Anyway, Iceberg Theory’s rapping here feels relatively aggressive too. I feel like he raps more aggressively on solo tracks, but maybe I’m tripping.

Out of control, all the stock market crashes spun
Words spoken by the father on a bastard's tongue
This research chem, it might collapse your lung
I recall, I came from dust when I ash the blunt
For false messiahs, every lie that the masses hung
That's why the silence spoke volumes when the masters sung
That's the ore metal fashioned from
Patterned steel like Damascus, no core would outlast the sun

This is definitely another highlight for me. It’s one of the shorter tracks, but the rapping is top notch, and I love the production. This shit is dope as hell. It’s followed by Me & the Devil Blues. The production here is smooth as hell. The percussion is still pretty hard hitting, but everything else about the beat feels pretty chill. I love that vocal sample too. If I could see the beat, I imagine it would look like lotion. I guess I should take back what I said about Iceberg being more aggressive on solo tracks too because he was going pretty hard here.

Took modern science and wisdom of the ancients
Put my hand in desert sands, then we swim in an oasis
It's so basic, the molds breakin'
Veer into forms like a Soletaken

The second verse from SeKwence was fire too. Out of all the features on this project, I actually think he did the best job of accommodating Iceberg Theory’s style, which I honestly wasn’t really expecting.

I ain't really spiritual, if it's a God I hope he got me though
I guess the other option's greetin' the Devil and tryna sign my soul
I needed time to grow, some time to show and prove
I did it all just bein' me, I'm fightin' for what I believe
We tryna find the path to greatness
It's riddled with mistakes, but it ain't nothin', I ain't phased yet
Tryna find a place to call home
The only time I find some peace is when I'm faded and alone

He killed this shit. The song is dope. The next one, Zurvan, has another one of the smoothest & prettiest beats on the album. This one sounds like sunlight in the form of music. Iceberg Theory’s writing is just as great as ever here.

I brought gifts like the magi
Break bread with talmudic scholars and rabbis
Keep a dog that can sniff a landmine
Man hid himself from God, and God answered in kind
Seen the other world, and I didn't bat an eye
Canonized, your religion is sanitized

This is the shortest song on the album, but I really love it. The production is fantastic, and Ice killed it. It’s dope as hell. The penultimate song is called Work & Days, and it has one of the most upbeat instrumentals on the whole record. The jazzy horn loop is pretty nice. I love the anti-labor content of this song too.

I may never work another fuckin' day in my life
I'm straight chillin' 'til my savings are tight
I refuse to waste another day slavin', mind been payin' the price
All money is blood money, this shit is a sacred rite
Accumulation in the name of vice
Keepin' up with your neighbors is fake spite
I need a couple bags of beets and grains of rice
Gains are nice, but why the cage is so tight?

From a lyrical standpoint, this is probably the most straightforward track on the record. He’s not rapping about ancient, arcane concepts. It’s still well-written and interesting though.

I never take the sage advice
But I found myself living alone with no one to say goodnight
No internet or television, the loneliness made me right
And it made me pray to my God, though there's no angels in sight

The song is really dope. It’s not one of my favorites, but I definitely fuck with it. The closing track is called My Sins Run Out Behind Me…, and it’s another highlight for me. Once again, I love the smooth, jazzy production, and Iceberg Theory’s writing is great.

My sins run out behind me, hourglass sands is untimely
God by design, through choices my growth stymied
Tasted eucharist and let worldly matters divide me
Served so many masters, it took so little to bind me

I think this song has some of the best writing on the album. It’s one of my favorite tracks for sure. I think it’s dope af.

This album is really goddamn great. This is definitely my favorite project that I’ve heard from Iceberg Theory so far. The ancient religious & mystical themes had me hooked the entire time, and I think these are some of the best beats I’ve heard from August Fanon. There’s not a single track here that I didn’t think was dope. Every feature was great, and each verse from Iceberg Theory was super well written. Like I mentioned in the body of this review, I’m exposed to a new word or concept damn near every time I hear a song from this dude. Nobody is rapping about the shit he’s rapping about. If you’re tired of hearing the same kinda shit from every rapper you listen to, this is the kinda shit you need to be checking out. It’s super dope. Don’t sleep on it.

Favorite Song: Julian of Norwich
Least Favorite Song: Work & Days


Grade: A-


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