The legend of Divine Council begins with ethereal textures, sanguine synth, and light energy reminiscent of a heaven not yet experienced.
Then, after thirty seconds of this: founding member $ilkmoney growls into the mix at a rate of two profanities per three seconds – all accentuated by a volatile bass that reminds the listener to turn his volume down.
The song in question was the leading single off the group’s 2016 debut Council World. Concept-wise, it introduced consumers to a formula re-hashed in virtually every track on the tape: a thoroughly engineered contrast between peace and violence, light and dark, heaven and hell.
In Decemba, for example, you have three layers of keys traveling up a half-step and back down. The instrumental alone is delicate. But, once the initial loop is complete, the first voice you hear roars of hoisting people atop cliffs “like Simba,” only to “drop (them) down like Decemba.”
After setting up shop on SoundCloud as DBSB (DirtBagShawtyBwoyz) shortly after the aughts’ end, the collective swiftly rose through the ranks of hip-hop, earning six-digit listener figures on EPs, and being co-signed by artists like Andre 3000 and Erykah Badu.
Council World was the first record of theirs to be released on various streaming services.
Four years later, it has received upwards of 637,000 streams on SoundCloud alone.
“Honestly, we weren’t even trying to be like the biggest,” founding member Linco told the XXL Magazine in 2017. “We were just putting out music that we liked listening to.”
Divine Council was unfortunately only able to pursue this formula as a collective for one LP — as soon as 2016, all four members branched off into solo careers. The aforementioned was left as both their first and last group effort.
But – amidst the moniker’s funeral, the sound it pioneered continues to find new life.
The name of this new life: ICYTWAT.
The fourth member of Divine Council originally entered the fold as a producer. Impressed by Tyler, the Creator’s Goblin, he took to the studio to emulate it’s sound; and, by 2014, he was sending beats of his own to the DBSB through Twitter.
“Audio Pastel,” the rapper dubbed it in an interview with Noisey.
$ilkmoney expounded upon the name for XXL in 2016. “When you listen to our sh*t…for real, when I listen to certain beats or sounds, I see a color,” he said over the phone. “So it’s like when you hear our sh*t, it gives you a color.”
The first thing that strikes you upon consumption of the supergroup’s music is the artwork behind which it sits. From that quality alone, considering every member who has passed through DBSB affiliation, the first projectile to make contact with consumer consciences is – indeed – nothing but color.
Gracing the cover of $ilkmoney’s 2020 project Attack of the Future Shocked, Flesh Covered, Meatbags of the 85 is a purple-skied apocalypse of levitating women, kaleidoscopic UFO discharge, and, in one crevice, a shining white pony.
As for surviving member Cyrax, the artwork accompanying his latest release strikes a similar chord: clad in black & white stripes, an animated version of the rapper studies an obscure object clutched within his palm – the said object radiating pink, yellow, and blue lights that simultaneously bleed into the entirety of the frame.
ICYTWAT is no different. His first solo album’s cover featured a woman – eyes barred out – seated atop a vehicle amidst hues of yellow, streams of milk, and what appears to be a pineapple.
The second layer of color, though, is the music itself – and on this record, he cannot seem to grasp what that means to him as an individual artist.
On songs like the title track, he struggles to find a balance between his roots behind the board and his future behind the mic. After substituting the looped instrumental that typically kicks off a DBSB cut for 15 seconds of a young latino male ranting about females who “always wanna get the clout though,” the artist offers a mere minute of instrumental mixing, before concluding it all with the sound of chirping birds. It isn’t a bad album. No album really is. The color within the music simply contradicts itself more than it does the opposite.
Passing over his following studio release (as it was technically a collaboration with Divine Council collaborator LORDFUBU), LP number three sees ICYTWAT debut the Dream Bwoy alter-ego that vows to define his transition from mere DBSB producer to premiere MC – though some questions posed by his first tape remain unanswered. The rapper does step out of his shell, making efforts to diversify his flow to a greater extent than shown in previous releases; but, this is overshadowed by fallbacks into old habits. Namely, certain tracks manage to grow monotonous despite brevity. In Ain’t on Sh*t, the first of only two verses is comprised of the song’s title being repeated a dozen times. Parasomnia, even, puts the same idea of monotony into an eerie realism: The repeated phrase? No way out. The repetition that haunts the artist is further reflected in who he chooses to feature; frequent collaborator KYEOSHIN is credited on 5 of 15 songs off of the two records combined. By the end of this one, ICYTWAT remains a talent yet to be uncovered – but he must exorcise the demon called his past before he leaps any further.
This he does.
Up to where I say the artist in question truly made a name for himself, no release of his exceeds 26 minutes; no respective tracklist boasts at least 10 cuts. Focuses on lyricism and production clash more than they compliment each other.
But in 2019’s Icytwat Radio, the rapper is not afraid to break tradition. Twenty-seven tracks. One hour and a half.
No rapping whatsoever.
In ICYTWAT’s latest effort, the rapper vividly goes back to his beginnings – where he emulated the likes of Tyler, the Creator’s Goblin to bolster generative creativity nearly a decade ago – and delivers a focused, pruned, and well-oiled version of the very thing that launched him into the sphere of hip-hop: production – or, rather, “Audio Pastel.”
It is beyond appropriate to deem ICYTWAT the future of not only Divine Council, but hip-hop in general. One must know where he has been in order to know where he is going. ICYTWAT knows both.
Rap does not adhere to a single formula any longer, and no longer does the rapper. In a decade, Kanye West evolved from a broke College Dropout cutting tracks about his shortcomings, to a Margiela-coated, diamond-masked voice from the peak of the mountain. In five years, A$AP Rocky went from draping himself in an American flag for his debut studio album cover to rhyming about why the “President a A-Hole” two releases later. ICYTWAT’s own muse, even, went from a snapback-clad rioter banned from England, to a wig-wearing, pink-donning, walking challenge to what exactly hip-hop entails. What has sustained all three, though – is the persistent memory of roots.
ICYTWAT is a rapper that has proven ownership of this quality.
One track on Icytwat Radio, titled “Dbsb,” gives a direct nod to the collective wherein this MC found his own beginnings. In two minutes and twenty seconds, the “audio pastel” envisioned a decade ago rides shotgun on the road to the future, alongside a confident Dream Bwoy manning the steering wheel.
The rearview mirror is filled with color.