Don’t Sleep | Grand Mantis – Fangs

Don’t sleep on this debut album from Grand Mantis. They’re a group containing rapper/producer Yikes the Zero, MC Osevere, guitarist Thaddeus Cole-Pepper, and DJ Skipmode. Yikes the Zero dropped one of my favorite albums of 2019, so I’ve been looking forward to hearing whatever he had coming next. On the other hand, I’m not super familiar with the other members of the group. Osevere & DJ Skipmode both worked on Yikes’ last solo album, but aside from that I’ve not heard their work. Thaddeus Cole-Pepper is completely new to me too. I wasn’t sure what this album would be like at all, but I was certainly curious about it, and it thankfully ended up really impressing me.

Since this isn’t a full review I’m just gonna be writing about a handful of highlights. The first track I wanna talk about is the opening song, Reignfall. As soon as I heard this track I knew I had to tell y’all about this album. I absolutely love the weird production on this track, and Osevere opened up the song with a beautifully written tercet.

Methodically monstrous, lyrical constructs on any topic
Release the beast on beats, bring the apocalypse for false gods & goddesses
Who wanna talk shit like fertilizer sales when the gossip is garbage

Yikes the Zero comes in right behind him; I love the way they’re trading bars on this track. You may remember that I had a lot of trouble deciphering exactly what Yikes the Zero was saying on his last solo album, and I struggled with the same thing on this album. I don’t know what it is about the way that dude raps, but I can rarely understand what he’s saying. I don’t think it’s his problem. It’s definitely a me thing. However, I still really enjoy his work just because he has an awesome voice and flow, and he’s an awesome producer. I wish I had the lyrics, but even without knowing what he’s saying I’m entertained by his rapping. It’s not quite the same as listening to music in a different language because I can understand bits and pieces of what he’s saying. It’s just hard for me to grasp onto full lines. Anyway, I love how the percussion doesn’t really come in until about halfway through the song. Thaddeus Cole-Pepper’s contributions sound fantastic too, and I love the scratches from DJ Skipmode at the end of the track. This shit is dope as hell. The next highlight for me is called Waves. The production on this track is a lot more melodic sounding than that of the opening song. Thaddeus Cole-Pepper’s guitar sounds fantastic here. I love this instrumental. The opening verse from Osevere is great, and I honestly think I like Yikes’ verse even more. His flow was really nice.

Players get evaporated, they gon' eat these words
Inconceivable, believe it when we teach these herbs

Y’all already know I probably misquoted those lines, but I think I got most of the words right. The production on this track actually sounds kind of celebratory. I’d actually say it’s one of the more accessible instrumentals on the project despite still being slightly off-kilter. There’s really nothing about this track that I don’t love. The production is steller, and both of the verses are really nice. I think the song’s dope as fuck. Track 7 is called The Gate, and it’s another one of my favorite tracks on the album. It’s the longest song on the project, but I definitely feel like the length is justified. The production is really colorful; Thaddeus Cole-Pepper killed this shit. I feel like I was able to understand Yikes’ lyricism a lot more on this song than I usually can. One thing I really appreciate about this group is the fact that both of the MCs have very different voices. There’s never any confusion about who’s performing which verse. Anyway, they both killed this track.

Not a lot, enough staggering, kick 'em when they swaggering
How'd they get the mic? They must be good at fuckin' haggling
I peeped that, bad news, he don't got a seat
Brothers gotta eat, face facts, pull up the receipt

I love these guys’ flows, man. I might like this track even more than Waves. I don’t know. I haven’t decided what my favorite track is yet. This shit is fire though. I think the song’s dope as fuck. It’s followed by another highlight called This That. This track seems to have more of a Rock influence than the preceding material. The drums are really hard-hitting, and the electric guitar from Thaddeus Cole-Pepper sounds great. Same goes for the scratches from DJ Skipmode. I love the way Yikes & Osevere are going back and forth on this track. They sound so good together. There’s a really dope hook on this track, and of course the verses are fire.

This that head bang, hard rock, metal chain
Let the third leg swang, shittin' on your gang gang
This that bang bang boogie with the boom bap
King Kong enemas, gorilla monsoon rap

I think I misquoted that last line, but it is what it is. I just really liked that line about letting the third leg swing. I think “third leg” is a funny term.

This that buzzer beater down from half court
Double overtime in this rhyming bloodsport
This that motto, go full throttle
And captured like black girl magic in a bottle

They killed this track. Yikes the Zero actually kinda reminds me of Cambatta, and I’m not totally sure why. Their voices are completely different, and they don’t really rap the same way at all. I just think the way they pronounce their words is kind of similar. I don’t know. Maybe that’s a reach. Anyway, this song is dope as hell. It’s followed by another highlight entitled Nightmares. I absolutely adore the production on this track. This beat is incredible. I really love Yikes’ lowkey vocal delivery on the opening verse, even though it kinda makes the lyricism harder to decipher. Osevere sounds great on the second verse.

I'm your worst nightmare incarnate, brought to life
Taught to write with sounds and symbols, I wield dark and light
You jokers ain't Heath Ledger whereas I'm the darkest night
Artist with an author's sight and no prior archetype

They both killed this track, and I love the scratches from DJ Skipmode in between each verse. This song is awesome. I think it’s dope as hell. The next track is another highlight called Scram. I think that from a technical standpoint this track has some of the best rapping on the album. Osevere fucking slaughtered this track.

Step on the spot, coal hella hot
Weather the weathers whether your ready or not
I tell 'em it's whatever, Osever' will shovel your plot
Grand Mantis out here soundin' like it's hecklin' cops
These light rounds, harder bars that'll level your block
Echo the rock, so eloquent, malevolent shots
The ghetto's unlocked, underground never gon' stop
And you can bang it 'til the levels go pop
Let's go to work, ahk

Again, I think I misquoted some of those lines, but I tried my best to transcribe them accurately. Sonically, this track has one of the more traditional, boom bap oriented beats on the album. It’s still pretty off-kilter though. The hook from Yikes the Zero is really nice, and I was blown away by Osevere’s performance on this track.

That's the battle cry of the ronin
Soaked in aged oak barrels of psalm & poem
Let it coast in, envelope my flows in
Open arrangements, our statement's emotion
Call it shameless promotion
In a cadence that makes sense when it's translated and spoken

This song is dope as fuck. The next track I wanna talk about is the penultimate song, Nameless. This song’s got a really cool instrumental, and Yikes & Osevere’s flows and rhyme schemes are really fucking cool.

Simply a sentinel on the symphony
Meant to be explored intensely through the centuries
Redundant rap infinity infinitely
Meanwhile see how the timekeeper sent me
Burning hemp leaves off the trees like detox
Book like Enoch, best to move your Reeboks
Every time that we rock the world eavesdrops just to see what we got
'Bout enough to outsell your weed spot

I even like the hook on this track. The scratches from DJ Skipmode really add a lot to this song too. This song has kind of a chaotic atmosphere to it, which I really love. The electric guitar solo from Thaddeus on the outro is fire too. The song’s dope as hell. The closing track is called Alchemy (Mantis Mix), and it’s fire. Once again, the production is loud and chaotic. The flows from both MCs are really aggressive, which I appreciate. I feel like Yikes in particular really stood out on this track. He sounds really great here. This track is pure energy; I appreciate how they ended this album with a bang. It’s one of the most exciting songs on the album to me. I think it’s dope as hell.

This album is really goddamn great. In fact, I’d say it’s one of the best albums I’ve heard from 2022. I usually refrain from using the U word, but I’m just gonna say it; these guys are underrated as fuck. More people need to be paying attention because they’re incredibly talented. Every single member of the group, including Thaddeus Cole-Pepper & DJ Skipmode did a fantastic job here. There’s not a single track on this album that I don’t think is dope. The weird production and wordy flows are right up my alley. I’m so glad I didn’t overlook this project because I’d be missing out on one of the best albums of its year. The beats, rhymes, flows, and instrumentation are all on point. If you’re into abstract, underground Hip Hop, this is a must-listen album as far as I’m concerned. Do not sleep on this shit. It’s dope as hell.

Favorite Song: Waves
Least Favorite Song: Thaddeus’ Lament


Grade: A-

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