Release Title: Coal Lampin’ single
Release Date: 12 August 2022
Location: Lexington, Kentucky
Digital Price: Name your price
Length: 3min 22s
When this GemRats track named Coal Lampin was brought to my attention by one of CDM’s favorite underground rappers, Cas Metah, I immediately knew it would be good, because Cas has a good ear indeed. This has been a long time coming (recording work originally started in 2013), and finally GemRats have a release. The idea of Coal Lampin grabbed my attention straight away with GemRats dedicating it to the victims of mountaintop removal mining, a coal mining method that has devastated communities and environments in Appalachia. The first single of hip hop duo JustMe and Sheisty Khrist is a strong debut. Not just because these two are already talented as hell, but because it’s the sort of track that after listening the first time, I knew I would write a full review.
Before getting into anything else, I want to take a moment to praise producer Sebastian Hochstein’s work, and the work of D1 who mixed and mastered the track. Coal Lampin comes with luxurious piano beats, giving the track a slightly jazzy flavor without heading too far into the realm of jazzy hip hop that pled to some great stuff in the 90s. One is reminded a little of the type of classic beats you hear from DJ Premier. It’s just a pleasure to listen to Coal Lampin because Hochstein keeps it simple with the pianos and percussion, and D1’s mixing just kicks it up to another level.
What amazes me about GemRats is that this fire is their first real single. Sure, they recorded a series of demos back in 2013, but Coal Lampin is their first official release. Many rappers can take years to refine their style, find a producer that clicks with them, really nail down their flow all while trying to write bars that hit. For example, Coal Lampin has JustMe and Sheisty Khrist absolutely nailing it in their verses with bars that are topical, but have more individual, human stories woven in. Coal Lampin is about the evils wrought not just on the world, but also in Kentucky, and the track really is allegorical, where someone like ‘Lee’ in the track also refers to Lee County, KY.
“Man so dependent
As soon as he get his hand on the grand, he spent it
That’s why his land is rented
Be strong and independent
Win power by thinking wind power
In other words, get long winded (splendid)”
Some might see it as a little on the nose, but that’s totally fine when we’re dealing with such an important issue that hasn’t only affected public health – it has also led to disproportionate poverty rates and destruction of ecosystems. Beyond the obvious macro issues at stake here, there’s little human stories one can read from these lyrics. Sure, ‘man so dependent’ refers to humanity broadly, but then it could also refer to an individual stuck in a vicious poverty cycle, who’s being encouraged to break out of the cycle, look to the future and build something new. Finally, there’s also just some great, simple bars that stick out in my mind like, “Sun goes on the flower, while coal makes the soul go sour”. There’s some nice alliteration there, but also a contrast between the beauty of nature and the horrors of industrialization.
When I began writing this review, I thought to myself, “With a track this good, from a group this new, what are they putting in the water down in Lexington? Because I want what GemRats are having!” After listening to Coal Lampin, and the subsequent rabbit hole I fell into reading about the havoc it has wrought on Appalachia, I realised that it’s what’s getting put in the water down there that has damaged so many people’s lives. Seriously y’all, Coal Lampin is a hell of a debut, and it has me thirsting for more from GemRats. This is simply too good to be a short-term effort.
I hope you enjoy Coal Lampin.
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