The world is undoubtedly in an ugly place. The United States congress refuses to alter gun laws that continue to normalize the killing of Black and LGBT youth. The UK splitting from the European Union has torpedoed the world economy while Americans chuck stones from the glass house Donald Trump might be moving into next year. Regular folks are continually staring down the cleat-studded sole of the upper class; where’s the group that speaks to that?
MCs Red Pill and Verbal Kent, along with producer Apollo Brown, have done enough thankless work on their own before coming together as Ugly Heroes back in 2013. Pill (real name Chris Orrick) works as a truck driver in Detroit on the side of being one of the scene’s up and coming stars, while Verbal Kent (Dan Weiss) owns a chain of coffee shops in his native Chicago; they live the kinds of busy yet incognito lives that Vince Staples could only ever dream of.
Over Apollo’s gritty production, the pair bring street level lessons learned to the table, fresh cuts with dirt still on the rim. Their self-titled 2013 debut was chock full of these stories spun with a dark energy, but the follow up Everything In Between has fished out the lantern in a search for the end of the tunnel. Pill and Kent both prove that even with the stained visage of an Ugly Hero, there will always be a “Place Called Home.”
The middle track on Everything In Between displays the dichotomy between rallying for the future with feet firmly planted in the past. Pill’s palpable disdain for law enforcement and local government’s laziness (“Gang busting, beefing police back up/Patting themselves on the back for putting street lights up/Your ambulances still don’t run on time/Cops still harassing people, pulling guns on time/Let’s see how long the new dollars last/When the people with the blue collars ask”) mixes and blends with Kent’s ruminations on his multicultural childhood neighborhood (“Rogers Park/Koreans and Blacks, Jews, Latinos/Pakistanis, shit, there was even some Black Jews/No one had a problem with anybody; we had what we needed/Giant game of 21, we needed everybody”) to create a potent tale rooted in Apollo’s booming drums and luminous vocal samples. That severely relatable ethos drives the duo’s plain yet pointed bars into BarCode territory. Give the song a listen above and check out the lyrics to both full verses below:
“They say the new Detroit is coming/People flocking the opposite way on the James Couzens/And I don’t know if I’d call it ill intention/The city needed something, I suppose it’s still progression/Positive folks who wanna take on that endeavor should/But does it need another store that’s filled with leather goods?/And when I think about Shinola watches/I don’t think about Detroit I think of stolen profits/They praise the entrepreneurs, the restauranteurs/And tell the residents they should be resting assured/Gang busting, beefing police back up/Patting themselves on the back for putting street lights up/Your ambulances still don’t run on time/Cops still harassing people, pulling guns on time/Let’s see how long the new dollars last/When the people with the blue collars ask”
“Strategically placed; highways, liquor stores/Cameras at stoplights, neighborhoods divided by race/I grew up in a middle ground, one of the only places in the city/Where people from all backgrounds were found, Rogers Park/Koreans and Blacks, Jews, Latinos/Pakistanis, shit, there was even some Black Jews/No one had a problem with anybody; we had what we needed/Giant game of 21, we needed everybody/Land of submarines on the corner
now/it’s a currency exchange, google Touhy and California/Chippewa, Learner and Warren parks, Baskin/Robbins on Lunt, used to hit the Belden on Howard for lunch/copped 40’s from quick stop in high school/couple blocks from my school, Saint ides and bibles, love to the/Hudsons, Shwartz Miller….the Gables lived closest/Mike Tae, Aviv, Rami, Comorovs and the Robesons.”