In hip-hop circles, one of the most used abbreviated words is YOLO, defined as “You Only Live Once”. When one says YOLO, it’s another way of saying one should take risks, a do or die situation. If it’s going to be bad, at least you died trying but if you survive, then you have great stories to share. Seattle MC Spekulation is taking a risk of sorts by removing the elements people know him for, his lyrics and raps, and has focused on keeping things voiceless. It’s all-instrumental, there are classical elements, and it is said to be for a ballet. Hip-hop and ballet? It seems Spekulation is in a do or die situation, and hey, it’s music, he has nothing to lose by taking a risk. As the title states, Because You Never Know When and while the final part of that title is open-ended on purpose, it too is a simplification of what YOLO represents.
The music is said to be “a re-imagining of Philip Glass’ Songs and Poems for Solo Cello, and has been commissioned by the hSerendip Modern Dance Company for a live dance performance in the near future. At least in hip-hop, when one samples strings, it’s meant to be cinematic, a way of adding depth by going to a music that is all about emotion and perception. Philip Glass and hip-hop instrumentals are generally not associated with one another, but as you hear this, it’s a way to merge two types of music that pack a lot of emotion. As you hear this and perhaps imagine a ballet in movement, you also begin to hear common ground. For now it’s a ballet of the mind, taking on that vibe The RZA and Mobb Deep may have shared, but also representing West Coast hip-hop by getting into that bass-heavy nastiness.
If you’ve enjoyed Spek as an EP and had always hoped for more of his music side that was more than just hearing great instrumentals, Because You never Know When is a very satisfying listen that will go beyond your expectations. He is more than capable of creating a ballet, but he could easily be making music for video games, television, and movies. Some may go “I want to hear Spekulation rhyme over this” and if you do, create your own mixes. This stands out as a unique addition to Spek’s growing works, and it’s sure to get more in-depth in the coming years.