The 2017 underground MVP CRIMEAPPLE dropped off his first offering of 2018 earlier this month, pairing up with the one and only Big Ghost for Aguardiente. Hailing from North Jersey, the Colombian-American spitter aptly names this project after a clear alcoholic drink known as fire water. I say aptly because that’s exactly what this project is, fire all the way through. Big Ghost laces the projects with his signature menacing production, hard hitting drum patterns sprinkled with beautiful piano keys and some subtle chord work.
Sample-packed “Introduccion” perfectly sets the tone for the project: it sounds evil, like what you’re about to hear is Spanish villain music. CRIMEAPPLE wastes no time getting right to it and follow-up “Palo Santo” is packed with bar after quotable bar. “This ain’t the rapper taking classes at the Tiger Schullman’s” – You know from the jump this project is about to be some of the rawest joints you’ve heard all year. The way Ghost minimizes his productions in some parts then brings it back in heavy has an effect akin to hitting the top of a rollercoaster, and CRIMEAPPLE rides it all perfectly.
You never get a break from the bars when it comes to CRIMEAPPLE, he is easily one of the most creative spitters doing this sound right now, switching effortlessly from English to Spanish while he raps about everything from keeping his white girl swole like Anna Nicole to speaking Spanglish with his plug. The references and wordplay on “Big Face Frankies” is a showcase of everything that makes CRIMEAPPLE so good, “yall keep underground rap, this shit is bloody murder”. Pair all of that with his hard hitting delivery and his insane swagger and you get a perfect package of lyricism, braggadocio, humor, and quotes that will stick in your head for a whole day, “who shot ya wallet looking like an Empanada”.
While CRIMEAPPLE is impressive on his own, this project wouldn’t be as special as it is without Big Ghost on the boards. The Handz of Zeus himself is a very talented producer, his key and drum loops have such a menacing feel and pair perfectly with CRIMEAPPLE’s raps to create a final product that packs one hell of a punch. What’s great about Ghost is he seems to do so much with so little, on “Crime State of Mind” he takes a sample of Nas’ “I think of crime” line off NY State of Mind and scratches it creating an extremely satisfying loop of hard hitting drums, melancholy piano keys, and a classic line off a classic song.
On “Marble Steak” he opts for the drums to take a backseat to some heavenly piano work while CRIMEAPPLE spits “this the flow you only hear with ouija board, white I’m selling so stupid it should come with a tiki torch”. The track ends with a perfectly placed scratched sample of Kool G Rap’s Fast Life track, giving a fresh take on that classic boom bap sound which is what Ghost has excelled at in his career. CRIMEAPPLE states it perfectly himself on the album: “me and Ghost cooking, well I send my condolence”. They’re a match made in heaven, with enough talent between them both to craft one of the best underground releases this year.
At the end of “Crime State of Mind” we see the first appearance of skit god Lukey Cage and his comparison of food to the type of music CRIMEAPPLE and Big Ghost make. He particularly hits the nail on the head when he says “so put that good hip hop in your diet and every once in a while you can get some trash, go back to Ruths and get that good shit, fill your body up with them nutrients and shit, them bars, not Xanny bars either”. Aguardiente is a finely cooked steak in a hip hop game oversaturated with fast food music, the analogy leading perfectly into aptly-titled “Marble Steak”.
After five tracks of clever bars and raw street shit CRIMEAPPLE gives us a taste of his versatility with “Your Love”, the musical equivalent of a knife in the heart of an ex-lover. He relentlessly throws shots at a woman who did him wrong, penning an assault that tears its target to shreds. “You better work hard and pray bitch, my shit too fire to put your name in this” is a serious gut punch, but while he sounds angry as hell it’s all juxtaposed with the plea “I need you to love me”, a reminder that while your heart can be filled with anger and hate for someone else, you can still yearn for their love.
Last year, CRIMEAPPLE blessed the underground with his Buck Dudley assisted tape Metralleta. The project had no features (in his own words he sent Pacers to a couple of artists but none of them ever got back to him), 7 tracks of just CRIMEAPPLE with Buck Dudley on the boards. Aguardiente is a welcome change: Vic Spencer, Daniel Son, Benny, Milano Constantine, and Lil Eto all make appearances, each a formidable underground spitter in their own right. None waste a single bar on their features and elevate the songs they’re on rather than taking them over, a testament to the fact CRIMEAPPLE can go bar for bar with anyone and hold his own. With the waves the Jersey MC has been making, it’s safe to say rappers won’t miss another opportunity to hop on a track with him.
Following Vic Spencer and Daniel Son assisted “Casino” comes one of the most impressive storytelling displays of the year, “Another Round”. Big Ghost laces up a horn driven track for CRIMEAPPLE to spit one of the best showcases of imagery and wordplay I’ve heard in years. Using strictly names of alcohol he tells the story of a stick up turned murder and a crime ring, lead by the crime lord Dom Perignon. Impressive storytelling is a hard thing to pull off and comparably rare in today’s rap climate, yet CRIMEAPPLE manages to do it so well while interpolating insane levels of wordplay. Big Ghost also did the track proper, throwing in film noir-esque vintage horns and letting the track ride out with perfectly scratched samples of Big L and Cuban Link.
As the project closes out it doesn’t slow down and you pray it doesn’t end. Then you feel thankful we live in a digital age and you don’t have to hit rewind on a cassette and can just click play on the first song again. On “Five Chechnyans” Ghost serves up more bond villain-esque production, using a riff that sounds like it would play before you fight the final boss on a 1980s arcade game. Benny, Milo Constantine, and Lil Eto serve up nice assists on “Gorillas” and all four of them together over the perfect, minimalist, production sound like a group as evil as the Suicide Squad and craft a song that’s far better than the film. “Grey Poupon” sounds like a scene out of Narcos as CRIMEAPPLE raps about his fam catching NFL numbers and waiting in the park with glue over Big Ghost’s ominous keys (“See the smokers, say, look at what I brought for you”).
In this case. the people consuming the album could be the smokers and what CRIMEAPPLE and Big Ghost brought for us is the equivalent of musical heroin: it’s addicting and provides a high you don’t often get much from hip hop anymore. “Romans” is a perfect outro to the project, slowing it down as the high comes to an end while CRIMEAPPLE spits references to Rick Ross, The Beatles, and Prodigy. “Illuminati got my mind, soul, and my body” he raps as the beat starts to switch, creating a feeling like you’re in the clouds before Big Ghost brings the drums back in and CRIMEAPPLE delivers another onslaught of bars. After finishing off the album with “I’m just a crack baby out here trying to touch some yen, I need it all playa, hundreds, fifties, twenties, tens”, CRIMEAPPLE bigs himself up over the rest of the beat, a fitting ending to his finest display to date.
At 45 minutes Aguardiente is a short film in audio form, managing to touch on so many different vibes with each song acting as a new scene. Big Ghost solidifies himself as one of the illest underground producers doing it right now, laying the foundation for CRIMEAPPLE to paint a vivid picture of his life and what he sees and deals with on a day to day basis. It’s dark, villainous, sinister, and so enjoyable. In Big Ghosts own words “you probably gon wanna suplex old ladies n punch the windows out on a few public busses fam” and he’s right, CRIMEAPPLE is the villain you want to root for and this time, the bad guy wins.