REVIEW: Deca – The Way Through (2017)

In the midst of the slew of 2017’s “overlooked” albums sits New York emcee Deca’s sixth solo effort The Way Through. Integrating East Coast roots with vivid, often psychedelic imagery, the album stands out as amongst the current crop of gritty NYC rap.

Like many future rappers growing up in the 90’s, Deca was influenced by the likes of Wu-Tang, Nas and Busta Rhymes. Born in Denver, CO and later migrating to New York, today Deca is a rapper/producer/visual artist who aims to inspire and make positive use of his gift. He’s evolved past the east coast sounds of his youth, developed and honed into something beautiful and new while maintaining a firm connection to his boom-bap roots.

On The Way Through, Deca manages to create a warm, serene atmosphere while still remaining verbose and insightful as ever. Opening up the record is a monologue skit from a woman named Kria, who based on previous appearances is quite close to Deca. She starts us off by explaining the healing efforts of this album, creating a feeling of togetherness and love embodied by the lyrics and the emotional responses they evoke.

After Kria’s brief intro the listener is thrusted into“The Way In”,  the first true song of the album during which Deca spits only two short verses in his prototypical abstract-yet-focused style. Perhaps a reference to the psychedelic nature of the cover art, Deca references an extremely potent psychedelic drug, “yage”, otherwise known as ayahuasca in his first verse. The track contains detailed imagery alluding to society and moral illnesses within us, both collectively and individually.

“Drank the yage, and woke up from a dream
I know that love’s supreme above everything
I saw a goddess locked inside a cage and propaganda flash on the projection screen
Saw F-15s and death machines quell the praises of the most high that angels in the heavens sing
Saw my own prejudice and deepest fears in a hall of mirrors plagued by the illusion that we’re separate beings
And our collective sickness manifest through atoms split that strip flesh from bone and sap the essence from a precious thing”

Before we know it, “The Way In” has concluded and we advance further through the record.

Deca’s excellent use of samples in the way they compliment the overall feeling and emotion of the album are another noteworthy aspect of the project. They only serve to my respect for his craft, as aside from a few scratches from other producers this album, much like his previous efforts, is entirely self-produced. Whereas some beatmakers might just find a sample to manipulate and toss in the background of a beat, Deca isn’t afraid to let his choices be more at the forefront of the music when needed. Songs like “Delilah” incorporate a sample functioning as a hook, with its content still remaining lyrically on topic of the song at hand.

The album segways into what is my personal favorite track on the album, “Skyward”. Ripe with biblical and literature references Deca sounds at his most confident on this track, once again excellently utilizing a sample in the chorus. Questioning his own sins and morals, Deca creates a song that lyrically conveys existential and at times even pessimistic imagery, yet altogether feels light and hopeful. The aforementioned sample comes from Mr. Rogers of all people: “That’s how I learned, you can do it too!” he exclaims at the end of the hook.

The juxtaposition between the lyrical themes and production in “Skyward” drew me in immediately on the first listen, and the track features Deca questioning the duality between good and evil in love. He extends this theme to his knowledge of classic literature, referencing Moby Dick in the hook:

“About the ocean that professed love to Ishmael
While siftin’ through the serpent-like intestines of a sick whale”

The concept of professing love and saving a life while still maintaining toxicity and a sense of evil presented in these lines and throughout the track feel particularly compelling. Yet Deca never comes across as preachy, rather opting to be honest with his own sins. Instead of leading the listener to buy into a specific ideology, he presents his past and his beliefs primarily as food for thought.

The back half of The Way Through continues with one smooth and insightful track after another, ending before it manages to overstay its welcome. At only 32 minutes it’s the perfect length to be able to easily consume in one sitting and even run it back if you feel like you missed something on the first listen (which trust me, you will). In a hip hop landscape where 20+ track projects surpassing 60-70 minutes just to rake that streaming money is not uncommon, a short and concise project with zero filler is a breath of fresh air.

Overall, the album is a fantastic display of sample integration, rhyme schemes and insight that went severely overlooked last year. Though this music will never top the charts, all hip-hop heads will be able to find something admirable about this record. Those who enjoy it should naturally also listen to Deca’s past projects, notably The Ocean and The Veil, released in 2013 and 2011 respectively. You can listen to The Way Through on all major streaming services and available for purchase on iTunes and Deca’s Bandcamp, all linked below.

Spotify
Apple Music
Tidal
Bandcamp

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