Gabe 'Nandez, Argov - H.T. III

During a cold sunset in the mountains of central Mexico, Gabe ‘Nandez grabbed some water, candy, and a machete, and wandered into the desert in search of the mysteries of the solar system. It was a windy January night amidst the crumbling ruins of Wirikuta, the ghostly expanse sacred to the indigenous Huichol people, where native shamans make a 250-mile pilgrimage to commune with the ancestors in the axis mundi where local myths say that the universe was born.

Wirikuta is one of the few spots left in the world where the nearly extinct peyote plant grows in the wild. On a tip from a close friend, a native of the region, ‘Nandez came in search of the spineless cactus plant with powerful psychedelic and healing properties. The New York-based, globally raised artist, had experienced a pulverizing few years of loss and strife. After conquering drug and alcohol addiction, he weathered severe mental duress. And right when he achieved psychological stability, he suffered the most debilitating heartbreak of his life.

The most logical recourse was a hallucinogenic quest into rural Mexico in search of mescaline, a drug once described by Hunter S. Thompson like so: “Good mescaline comes on slow. The first hour is all waiting, then about halfway through the second hour you start cursing the creep who burned you, because nothing is happening…and then ZANG!” But there was no intermediary vendor. ‘Nandez came solo and spent two hours vainly searching for the peyote, which grows underneath a type of shrub called la gobernadora.

After rifling through hundreds of plants, ‘Nandez became momentarily despondent. It was a fruitless journey. Just then, as soon as he let go, it appeared. Five giant bulbs that had been stealthily growing in the middle of these arid lands for at least a half-century. Chopping them off with his machete, he entered another realm.

What was unlocked from the chamber supplied a creative spark for his latest project, H.D. III. Released on POW Recordings, it heralds some of the most taut and transformative writing of ‘Nandez’s career. From the first seconds of “Long Reach,” he’s immersed in a fight for the soul, Paradise Lost for post boom-bap, where ‘Nandez wrestles with the angel of death – as it manifests in worldly temptations and omnipresent woe.

With 10 post-Dilla, soul-warped angelic hymns supplied by Tel Aviv producer, Argov, the son of U.N. diplomatic envoys shuttles between the celestial and the concrete, the desire to transcend and the gravity of earthly laments. He’s paradoxically a figure of the avant-garde and a traditionalist, a bridge between the heroes of the past and the impossible to define future. The rhyme schemes are an intricate labyrinth, handwritten in a monkish apartment in the Lower East Side, where ‘Nandez wrote most mornings until dawn, sipping expresso and chain-smoking cigarettes.

‘Nandez summons metaphors of Louis XIV and murderous pirates, one-sided robberies and ruminations on ancient scriptures. Chester Watson appears out of thin air on “Aeons” and Ze Knoma Mpaga Ni Ngoko offers a masterclasses in French rapping on “Wolfpack” and “Kujua.” There are divinations of intimidating monsters and penitent offers of prayer and food. Flashbacks to huffing aerosol at the bus stop as a teenager, the chaos that followed, and the startling epiphany that somehow he survived through it all. All throughout, there is the recurring theme of a heartbreak that threatened to reduce him to ashes, only for him to persevere, finding an indomitable inner strength and inspiration from the Greek God, Hermes, the thrice-born sage who sparked the project’s namesake.

In a sense, the dazzling performance might not be much of a surprise for those who have followed the path of the artist raised between Haiti and Tanzania, Jerusalem and New York. Someone who has soaked up cultures, customs, and new languages the way other kids might have catalogued pop culture ephemera.

Despite shirking major labels, expensive publicity firms, and editorial playlisting ins, ‘Nandez has racked up, nearly a million streams of “Ox” and more than 600,000 of “Comets” on Spotify alone. Pitchfork has praised his “head-spinning flow.” Stereogum has hailed his sound as an abstract, heady take on slash-your-face ’90s rap; it’s intense and incisive and spaced-out, all at once.” The Fader recently called his first single from H.T. III: textbook hip-hop excellence.

Just as important is the respect of his peers on the cutting edge of rap’s underground. Last year, he appeared alongside the renowned Detroit MC Boldy James on Aethiopes, the acclaimed album by fellow New Yorker billy woods.

There is much more on the horizon, but ‘Nandez’s latest might be his most complete statement to date. The result of experiencing death and re-birth, the realization that the answers are contained within. A work from a virtuoso replete with implacable strength, divine power, and powerful psychedelic visions.

Gabe ‘Nandez:


Produced by Argov


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