This album was released on March 20th this year. For some reason I was under the impression that it would be dropping on the 27th, but that wasn’t the case. Well, it was released on Bandcamp on the 20th, but it was put on streaming services on the 27th. Anyway, Time is an artist who I know I’d heard of at least a year prior to receiving this album. I’d seen his name as well as the name of his group, calm., floating around the internet. In fact, he’s done work with Sole, who’s an artist I’ve listened to in the past. I’ve heard albums that he’s been featured on. I always assumed that he used to be an anticon. guy, but I don’t think he was actually ever signed to them. Anyway, I went to his bandcamp page and saw that the lead single for this project features Mick Jenkins & Psalm One, which is an interesting combination to say the least, so, needless to say, I was intrigued. After that, I read a short bio about him. Apparently, he’s a journalist who’s been in contact with Noam fucking Chomsky of all people. If that can’t get me to check an artist out, nothing can. Chomsky was actually featured on Time’s podcast just this past January, so check that out if you’re interested. After listening to the aforementioned podcast episode, I went back and checked out his two latest releases. The first one I heard was a collaborative record with Ephelant entitled How to Sew Wounds with Words. It was released in 2016, and it’s actually great. That song about being a hostage to addiction is fucking amazing. The title track is phenomenal as well. After listening to that, I checked out Things I Learned While Dying in Denver, which is the latest calm. record. That shit is fucking amazing. Seriously, that’s one of the best albums I’ve heard in… Well, I’ve heard a lot of amazing albums lately, so it hasn’t been that long since I’ve heard anything that good. It’s really fucking amazing though. It’s basically “How to Be Happy: The Album.” I fucking love it. In fact, it’s actually now in my top 5 albums of 2018. So yeah, I’ve become a pretty big fan of this dude in a very short amount of time, so I was really looking forward to this upcoming project. Thankfully it ended up being really great.
1. I WROTE THIS TO START A FIRE produced by DJ Pain 1
If you’re familiar with Time’s work, you pretty much know that most of what he releases is gonna be politically charged, and the title of this album makes it clear. You know exactly what you’re getting into. The very first couplet on the album is…
I wrote this to start a fire
I wrote this in memory of Heather Heyer
The production from DJ Pain 1 is incredibly jazzy boom bap stuff. It sounds like something that Joey Bada$$ would’ve rhymed over during the earlier era of his career. Even though the motivation behind this song is kind of sad and dark, it has a somewhat celebratory undertone. It sounds like a celebration of those who stand up against fascism and ultra-conservative groups. I tweeted about this a few months ago, but to me it’s really encouraging when you come across people like that who hold the same views as you and are genuinely progressive because all the mainstream constantly feeds us is hardcore conservatism, and neo-liberal bullshit. This is one of those tracks that reminds me that I’m not the only one who actually opposes that stuff and has decent morals. It just sucks because it always feels like the neo-nazis and fascists are the ones with power. I’m getting side tracked though. The song itself is like a celebration of the progressive movement, and I think it’s dope as hell.
2. ROSE QUARTZ TOMB produced by Daiba
I really love the kinda dreamy and mystical sounding production on this track. Time’s flow here sounds really strange, and off-kilter, but in a good way. It’s kinda fast paced and tense. The lyricism here is really cool too.
Blood on my chin, sharks in the water
I can see the fins, where to begin?
Ouroboros, start is the end
Enter the void, we’re in
Again, his flow is weird as hell here, so I think it’d be kind of an acquired taste, but I really like it. There are a lot of really cool quotable lines here too. Much like that TXTMS project that I recently covered, the writing here is actually unique and interesting.
Society put a mask on you, you better rip it off
Before the glue starts to harden and you forget who you are
I see dead leaves falling like letters addressed to the ground
Caressing the graves in the cemetery without making a sound
This is definitely a major highlight on the album to me because I love the somewhat surreal lyricism along with the unique production, which kinda reminds me of the Labyrinth of Moonlight song from the Soul Calibur 2 soundtrack for whatever reason. I think this shit is dope af.
3. SEEDS performed by calm. featuring Psalm One & Mick Jenkins
This song stands out from the track listing a lot due to the features. I think AwareNess’s kind of moody production here is really great, and Mick Jenkins’ hook sounds perfect over it. This actually sounds like something he would’ve used for Wave[s] or The Healing Component. The first verse from Time is a little strange to me honestly. The first quatrain has a really bizarre vocal effect, which is kind of jarring. The rest of the verse is pretty nice though. However, I honestly think that the best thing about this song is the second verse from Psalm One. She was gettin’ fuckin’ busy on this track. I think it’s on par with her verse on The Morning by the CunninLynguists, if not better. She annihilated this shit. Everything about her verse, from the writing, to her delivery and flow… It was all perfect.
How they gon’ shut us up?
We better learn to love, we better uppercut
We gotta bob & weave, we got mouths to feed
When they build them walls you gon’ know how to bleed
Okay, now lemme get this straight, bitch
My life don’t matter, got kids in cages
Right price, my daddy get flipped for racists
This shit is fire. The song is dope as hell.
4. 44 BARS FOR THE WORLD performed by calm.
I think some listeners may view this track as kind of simplistic due to its somewhat repetitive structure, but I love it. The production along with the way Time was flowing over it gave me an intense case of the involuntary head nod. The lyrics of course really resonated with me as well.
Fuck a nazi, fuck a fascist, fuck the fucking klan
Fuck a colonizer takin’ indigenous land
Fuck me, fuck them, fuck white supremacy
Fuck patriarchy & toxic masculinity
The whole track is just one verse and every line is structured like this, so it’s clearly a very straightforward song, but I really like it. The production is great, and I really fuck with the verse. This is dope as hell.
5. ABOUT NOVEMBER featuring Giuseppe produced by Giuseppe
I wasn’t sure what exactly the title of this song was referencing at first, but then when it finally clicked I felt like an idiot for not knowing earlier. The whole track is about what happened in November of 2016 when Donald Trump won the presidential election. ’Twas a rough month indeed. I really appreciate Time calling out Obama for being a corrupt evil politician though. I’m really glad this isn’t just an album that can be boiled down to “democrats are good and republicans are bad.”
Obama wasn’t no saint either
He had a kill list and every drone bomb dug the coffin deeper
The production on this track is pretty chill. It’s not really that memorable to me, but I don’t think it’s bad. The biggest gripe I have with this song is easily Time’s flow. On other tracks it’s not bad because it just sounds kind of off-kilter and different, but here it kinda just sounds awkward and kind of all over the place. It’s not quite bad enough to make the song completely unenjoyable for me though; I still like this. The sung hook from Giuseppe is pretty solid. I don’t know; the way he’s flowing definitely takes some getting used to, but it’s hard to say whether it’s awkward and off-putting or just really unique and sporadic. I feel like the extent to which I enjoy it changes with each listen. I definitely don’t hate it though. Overall, I think the song’s pretty good. It’s far from a favorite of mine, but I like it.
6. DENVERFICATION, KILLARADO produced by Daiba
I didn’t know what the title of this song was referring to before listening to it either, but it’s about the colonization of the Americas, and specifically in Denver since that’s where Time is from. The production here didn’t really stand out to me that much, but I think Time’s rapping here is really good. His flow here is a lot easier to swallow than it was on the preceding track.
Starin’ in the mirror, do I see a settler or an artist?
A long pause, 3 AM questions are the hardest
The hook didn’t really add much to the song for me, but the second verse is even better than the first one in my opinion. Overall, I don’t really have any serious issues with the song. I don’t think the beat and hook are really that interesting, but they’re certainly not bad. This isn’t one of my favorite songs, but I wouldn’t call it a low point personally. I think this shit is dope.
7. FROM DENVER TO DEARBORN produced by Giuseppe
This is definitely one of the best songs on the album to me. I think it has one of the best instrumentals; the entire track just feels really dramatic and even grandiose at times. Time killed this shit too. I think it has some of the best writing on the project.
When you say Allahu Akbar they be callin’ them cop cars
Fascism is not far when Trump is a rockstar
Solidarity to muslims around the world
‘Cause no mother should have to worry ‘bout the safety of her girl
The verses are divided by audio clips from different news programs documenting the provocation of xenophobic attacks by Donald Trump and his administration. It’s pretty dramatic, powerful stuff. I really love this one. It’s dope af.
8. 9 TO 5 GRAVEYARD produced by Cat Soup
I like the bizarre, almost spooky sounding instrumental on this song a lot. My issue with this song is the vocals on the hook. It sounds like Time tried to get GLaDOS as a feature to sing. I’m sure the off-key, robotic vocals were intentional, but it was just very off-putting to me at first. I kinda like how eerie it sounds, but I’m torn on it. When I first heard it, I thought it sounded fucking awful, so I guess it’s a good sign that it grew on me, but I’m still not totally sold. Thankfully the actual rapping from Time here is really good. The content matches the unsettling tone of the instrumental really well.
I found this song in an unmarked grave
I dug up the body and recognized the face
Let’s close these bones with some papier-mâché
Then animate the organs with lightning and clay
Lyrically, I think this is quite possibly the most interesting song on the entire project to be honest. The way he’s rapping here is really fucking cool. Not only are the lyrics really creative and vivid, but his flow sounds really great here too. It’s certainly gonna be a polarizing listen for a lot of people, and it’s far from a favorite of mine, but I definitely like it. This is a good song to me.
9. D LINE BLUES produced by JXSHYB
This song has the first instrumental reminiscent of a Trap beat. It’s kind of tense yet somber at the same time; I like it a lot. The storytelling from Time on this track is really vivid.
Saw a woman having a seizure
Saw a kid who wouldn’t leave her
Saw a boy with Down Syndrome
Holding hands with his teacher
The way the beat gets more dramatic and intense as the song progresses is really cool. I feel like if I wasn’t taking anxiety medication this song would make my heart race. This is actually one of my favorite songs on the album to be honest. The vivid lyricism and enthralling production makes it one of the most memorable tracks in my opinion. I think it’s dope af.
10. THEY DON’T TEACH YOU produced by JXSHYBI think this song has some of the best production on the whole album. It’s melodic and emotional, yet intense and almost Electronic sounding at the same time. Lyrically, the song is kinda similar to 44 BARS FOR THE WORLD in that every line is structured the same way. Almost every bar begins with “they don’t teach you.” The song’s about how the American education system is really just set up to make its citizens functional capitalists, without any focus on how to cope and fight societal and personal issues.
They don’t teach you how to love somebody
They don’t teach you that love is muddy
They don’t teach you how to love yourself
Just to compete and kill for wealth
My only real complaint is that his flow can be a little shaky here and there, but it’s never so bad that it makes the song unlistenable. I think the song is pretty great honestly. The production is really awesome, and I of course appreciate the lyricism. This shit is dope.
11. SPIRITUAL SON featuring Ron Miles produced by Giuseppe
This song has another fantastic instrumental. I know I’ve been saying this for a lot of songs, but I think this has some of the best production on the project. It’s super smooth and melodic. Ron Miles’ presence here really adds a lot to the song too. Lyrically, this is another one of my favorites. Well, it’s one of my favorites period.
I’d rather set the book ablaze
Than watch another racist child get raised
They say you can’t judge the past, “that was just a phase”
That’s just another way to try to make slavery erased
The way he went on to thank his mentor and praise him for the way he taught him was really heartwarming too. It’s one of the few moments on the album where he actually gets kinda personal and raps about himself and his own life rather than the entire country and world itself.
You were the grandfather I never had on my mom’s side, thank you for that
You called me on my bullshit, I used to hate you for that
You told me to keep it real, you saved me, you told me to keep it honest
You taught me the horrors of slavery, your parents were sharecroppers
It’s really a heartfelt track, and if I was the type of person who could cry easily, I’d definitely shed a few thug tearz to it.
See you in the next lifetime
Put me on the guest list
This is dope af.
12. DIGITAL COAL MINE produced by Daiba
This song has another fantastic instrumental. It’s really melodic and relaxing; it kinda reminds me of Elzhi’s The Healing Process. Well, the percussion that eventually drops in when he begins rapping kinda takes away that therapeutic quality, but it still sounds like drops of water hitting my eardrums. There’s no hook or bridge on this song. Time is rapping throughout pretty much the entire track, and I think this song has arguably his best flow on the entire album. Honestly, this is easily one of the best songs on the project. I don’t know if I’d say it’s my number one favorite, but it has some of the album’s best, most interesting & poetic writing.
Like an unwritten book thrown away in the trash
Like that carton of cigarettes that you tried to ash
Like your arm’s hard ligaments that you torture and gash
Like them shots that you think black out the past
Just like that past, it won’t ever go away
We’re waiting for the future, so we ignore today
I think this song has some relatively abstract lyricism, which consequently makes it more replayable since I want to decipher it. I’m pretty sure the main subject is how society and media kinda manipulate us, or, as one man whose name I won’t say has put it, “the media Jedi mind fucks us.” Well, that’s not the only thing he raps about in this song, but it’s the one thing that stood out to me the most. He ends it by saying that “I’m just trying to kill the mind owner in me.” I think this shit is really fucking awesome honestly. I don’t have any actual complaints about this song. I think it’s dope af.