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Black Materia: The Remixes :: Review by Matt

Black Materia: The Remixes Album Title: Black Materia: The Remixes
Record Label: Random Beats
Catalog No.: N/A
Release Date: January 31, 2012
Download: Download at Bandcamp


One year ago Random released Black Materia, a hip hop concept album featuring mixes of some of the most iconic themes from Final Fantasy VII. Many nerdcore fans embraced Black Materia without hesitation, as did traditionalist fans of Final Fantasy who might not have had much exposure to urban music beforehand. Both fanbases combined to make Bthe release one of the most popular nerdcore albums released to date which is, perhaps, why Random chose to revisit the project by releasing Black Materia: The Remixes. With the addition of six new tracks and the collaborative talents of several friends (from within the nerdcore and mainstream hip hop scenes), Random has focused and refined the sound of Black Materia and, in the process, created an entirely new album. The end result is a synthesis of sound that improves on the formidable original in most every way.


Comparing the tracklists of Black Materia with The Remixes may lead to a bit of confusion as to which tracks from the original album didn't make the new cut, which are new, and which are actual remixes. The majority of the songs on the original received updated remixes but "Birth of a God", "Introduction" (the opening monologue of Advent's Children), and "Don of the Slums (Interlude)" were trimmed from The Remixes, with the only real musical loss being "Birth of a God".

Of the six new tracks offered on The Remixes, three are devoted to the themes of ancillary characters that did not receive their own tracks in Black Materia. Ninja Girl" (Yuffie) proves that Random can make a great track about his least favorite character with an appropriately bright and bubbly track that anyone who played through FFVII will relate to ("She called herself a thief/but she got caught bout it/Now I don't hit women/but I thought about it"). By contrast, "Valentine" — which features RoQy TyRaiD — is a more serious track with a distinct horrorcore feel to it. This is owed to the fast and grandiloquent lyrics flowing over an effectively ominous piano line and the repeated chorus of "atonement, redemption". It is a nice change of pace from Random's more light and silly style, but sticks out a bit from the rest of Black Materia and The Remixes.

Rounding out the three new character tracks is "Cait Sith", which features Adam WarRock lending his trademark vocal talents to this incredibly enjoyable theme. WarRock's blazingly fast lyrical delivery guarantees that you will need to listen to the track multiple times to catch all of the game references, which won't be hard to manage thanks to the grooving bassline and sampled "doo doo doo" clarinet line on the track. I spent more time listening to this track than Cait Sith ever spent in my party, which is a testament to how compelling WarRock and Random can make a song.

"Escape from Shinra Tower" makes use of the boss fight theme "Fight On!" which was curiously absent from Black Materia. Juice Lee and Ilyas are featured brilliantly on this track, providing a good point/counterpoint flow that keeps the feel of the album fresh and energetic until Random comes in to bring, the track to a crackling conclusion. The final new track, "Final Fantasy", is a bit of braggadocio rap that intersperses vague threats and boasts with references to the abilities, eidolons, and characters from the Final Fantasy series. Lost Perception's remix has a more classic hip hop feeling with a backing organ track, while JonWayne's is more chip hop in nature but both feature enough references to the various games in the Final Fantasy franchise to make the most straight-laced fanboys wave their hands in time with the beats.

With the new tracks and omissions addressed, we can now focus on the main draw of The Remixes which are, well, the remixes! "Absolute" is a more focused solo hip hop track after it loses its deeper backing vocals on the chorus and concentrates more on Random's rapping. The same can be said for "Aeris", which still manages to maintain its haunting, surreal quality despite having its three minute long epilogue trimmed from the remix. "Avalanche" is given two remixes, one by DJ Jinnai and the other by Random's long-time collaborator Lost Perception. DJ Jinnai's is enjoyable for its almost a capella rendition of one of the most vocally rhythmic songs from Black Materia while Lost Perception's features some great mixing and distortion effects that help create a mix that stands apart from the original.

In an exception to most on The Remixes, "Cosmo Canyon" is almost doubled in length with "Return to Cosmo Canyon" which features a truly excellent second verse from Random that helps correct the somewhat abrupt ending to the original version. Another drastically changed track is "One Winged Angel", which makes use of RAHM Nation alumni Storyville to help it come across as more blistering and angry than the rage-filled original and definitely benefits from a shorter, less biographical cut on The Remixes. Hardcore fans of Random who want to hear more of his life story can soak it in from the 16+ minute version on Black Materia, but more casual fans will likely prefer the shortened remix.

One aspect of The Remixes that will please all fans of Random's rapping is the inclusion of the Japan Remix of "Cry of the Planet" which he released after the disasters of March 2011 with proceeds going to the Japan Relief Effort. In my original review of Black Materia I said the following about "Cry of the Planet": "[it] is perhaps the most noteworthy track on the album and breaks the fourth wall by focusing on not on Final Fantasy VII, but on the real world... providing lyrical context to make it applicable to both the problems facing the modern world and the apathy with which they are received. With 'Cry of the Planet', Random reminds listeners of the social commentary that both videogames and hip-hop can provide. It's anomalous from the rest of the tracks on Black Materia but is arguably the most important track on the album." The Japan Remix of the "Cry of the Planet" shows just how important and applicable the message of the original track is, and fans would do well to pay attention to the message of both versions.


There was little room to improve on Black Materia either thematically or musically, but Black Materia: The Remixes somehow manages to accomplish just that. Many of the longer pieces from the original album ("Aerith", "One Winged Angel", etc.) are focused into laser-sharp remixes while shorter pieces ("Cosmo Canyon") are given a longer run time to develop and never feel padded. In closing, Black Materia: The Remixes is the Neo Bahamut — or perhaps Bahamut ZERO — to Black Materia's Bahamut, It is a near-perfect hip hop album that proves modern rap can be light-hearted, socially conscious, and enjoyed by video game music fans regardless of who they took out to the Golden Saucer.

Overall Score: 10/10