April 05, 2011 - Stereo Bang Media
The knock on rap-rock has traditionally been that its main strength is also its primary weakness: a lumbering, brontosaurean power that seems to naturally lend itself to the lunkheaded gesture. But music has evolved several lifetimes beyond the ’90s/’00s renaissance of hard-rocking hip-hop, and there’s no better example of this new sophistication than Hyro Da Hero.
Much of the material on his proper debut, produced by Ross Robinson (Korn, Slipknot), uses as its base the Southern rap beloved in his native Houston, with its clockspring-tense hi-hats and Geiger counter snares. But when songs like “Sleeping Giants” and “Ghetto Ambience” explode into action, the results—courtesy of a tight, taut backing band that includes Paul Hinojos (ex-At The Drive-In) and Cody Votolato and Mark Gajadhar (ex-the Blood Brothers)—are surprisingly nimble, avoiding stock big beats and power chords in favor of more angular, agile and atmospheric moves.
And Hyro has much more on his mind than frat-friendly Bic-flicking; he tackles hip-hop stereotypes, the peculiar lure of the bad part of town and the end of the world as we know it in dynamic verses that go from a whisper to a scream without losing intelligence or intelligibility. For anyone who once loved bands like Fishbone and 24-7 Spyz, or just hoped for more from this often-maligned genre, those are heroic qualities indeed.