Felipe Pupo is the moniker donned by Philadelphia, visual artist, E. Grizzly. Under his name, E Grizzly had a record in Oct 2016, titled, Felipe Pupo. That LP was credited as “produced, recorded and mixed by E. Grizzly and collaborator Scott Labenski and the ghost of Jason Pupo”. That LP drips with rap, trip-hop, the blues and rock orgies spewing magic and mysticism. E. Grizzly also has hip-hop and industrial albums going back to 2010. Now, Felipe Pupo returns with Scott Labenski in the same role.
Grizzly notes: “The last album was dedicated to Jason Pupo. He was a good friend of mine who passed away. It inspired me to write about ghosts and being haunted by memories. We wanted to keep the spirit theme going with this new EP. Orishas are spirits in the Yoruba and Santeria religions. It’s a part of my family’s history and it’s something I wanted to explore.”
Yoruba are a people from Nigeria now populating the UK, USA, Togo, Benin, Nigeria, and Ghana. Santeria is an Afro-Cuban religion mixing Catholic practices and customs of the Yoruba. Ultimately, what is perfectly clear is that Grizzly has combined his hip hop with live instruments (mostly) to exemplify Afro-Punk mixed with all the inherent influences, boom bap, jazz, funk, calypso and rock.
No denying the Philly saturation here. The streets are sweating ardent love for Chuck Treece and The Goats and all the splintered fractures which disseminate from those connections and auras. Sounds of this Philly ilk burst from Oshiras while taking the material far into their own direction. Felipe Pupo bring frustration and rage with guitars, some funky bass, and an arsenal of rhythms provided by live drums and a drum machine. Sometimes the song formula is apparent; quiet verse with bass and drums lead into a loud punky guitar chorus with spazzing energy; repeat three times. But, that is how System Of A Down and 9,000 Nu-Metal bands sold millions and touched angsty suburbanites. So, I see no issue here utilizing that formula when your words and conviction is realer than 8,999 of those bands of that era. Plus, it is Afro-“PUNK”. Punk has four decades of adhering to quick formulaic repetition. The lyrics and execution is what matters. Felipe Pupo deliver intellectual savagery.
The DIY is strong here. This is true homemade, frantic punk. “Identity Crisis” (which exhibits solid musicianship, especially the guitars). The lyrics expose Grizzly’s corrosive introspection; depleting his sanity as he searches for form and identity; historically, racially, and geographically. Just like the prior track, the killer, “No Days Off” captivates. Among the racial and social pressure, some still have to go to work and deal with a universal laborious struggle. “Capt. Pupo” has a simmering intro, with a swaying RATM feel with expected explosions; but the synth play in the second half of the track grips tension equally with dark drum machine rhythms. While “Honeymoon Phase” has a acoustic guitar strum under frenzied snare and a sung bridge until the Bad Brains type thrash commands the track. That soothing section is alluring and returns one minute into the track. Grizzly actually sings here adding to the seduction before again an unfettered release. The lead guitar in the break has a Spanish flavor, echoing the poly-rhythmic approach.
Lead single NOGAF also has a video. E. Grizzly’s visual art here is stunning; replacing the facebook façade with any egotistical need of having a camera follow him bounce around a stage; which of course is a statement in itself. The sonic ebbs and flows of RATM are there; complimented by (again) fluid Spanish/Carribean guitar wails. Pictures of Carlton and other commodified (and appropriated) images fall like cylinders in a vault lock between Grizzly’s lyrics being typed on screen. “Oh the Hypocrisy” is the refrain.
Felipe Pupo explore the placement of culture in this current American society. Knowledge of one’s history paired with contemporary context splinters into schizophrenic urges. And as each generation combines swirling genetic imprints, each generation is its own nascent definition. The fury of this exploration is done under the fetters of an Anglo-defined system. E Grizzly and Labenski provide the soundtrack. And it fucking kills.
RIYL: White Mandingos, Full Scale Riot, Fireburn, Street Sweeper Social Club, McRad, Black Landlord, Downset, Reef The Lost Cauze, Dalek, Wesley Willis Fiasco, The Krays Sangre