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Darko The Super is an unusual artist in sound and personality. His music tends to be more chaotic and noisy than mainstream artists, but also holding much deeper meaning than most popular musicians of today. If you’re not familiar with Darko’s music, he is very much captivated by the idea of suicide. He takes his emptiness and creates a fulfilling audial experience with every album presumably to combat his own suicidal thoughts or depression. Using samples from past artists and idols who inspired him, we’re allowed much more than a glimpse into Darko’s mind. Listen deeper into what may sound bizarre and you’ll find rich poetry and serious jams. “Watered Down Demon Fuzz” is Darko’s latest album and you should drink it all in at least once. Don’t be a wuss, one hit of the Demon Fuzz won’t kill you. Also, I’ve been given permission to sample snitch, so I guess it’s not really snitching if no one will spank me.
The introductory track “Watered Down Demon Fuzz” is a beautifully arranged trilogy using samples from Daniel Johnston’s album 1990. I could probably attempt an analysis of each line on this one song and still fill a page you wouldn’t read. The first spoken word segment is an eerie spoken-word monologue (or soliloquy if Darko feels like no one is listening). It’s a cover of Daniel Johnston’s “Devil Town,” but instead of saying “devil town” and “vampires,” Darko says “demon fuzz” and “watered down.” Woe has befallen Darko as he and his friends succumbed to the Demon Fuzz without realizing it due to it being watered down and of a lower potency. I don’t know what Demon Fuzz is or where you can buy it, but based on the tone of the song it doesn’t sound like a positive beverage. I bet it tastes like ass. The scene soon shifts to Darko in the spotlight sampling Daniel Johnston’s piano fingers from “Some Thing’s Last A Long Time,” slightly more hopeful but not quite elated about his personal life and inner thoughts. It’s difficult to decipher exactly what Darko is talking about, but following the line “No mail today, Grandma death,” the beat changes to an agitated slamming of piano keys courtesy of Johnston’s “Lord Give Me Hope” and accompanying drums sampled from “Pan” by Ty Segall. Darko holds up God and asks what He (or She) has to offer. G comes up short with a disappointing sum, and Darko isn’t satisfied with the life God has given him. I hope he always understands that life is worth living despite how meaningless it can feel sometimes.
The three different periods of this song are very telling. The first could be the dull, lazy feeling of depression, the second phase an inexplicable period of happiness and hope from someone who is normally pessimistic, and the final being pushed into an angry suicidal debate. Keeping with this near-death mentality, “Let’s Hunt and Kill” uses a sample from one of the last televised performances of late comedian Bill Hicks, someone who Darko admires based on the frequency of Bill Hicks samples in most of his discography. Bill Hicks can also be heard in “Satan,” a chant to Satan with some added Hicks for mortal cynicism, and also in “Marketing & Advertising,” featuring Cody Jones, ialive, and Torito. I sincerely hope this album isn’t intended to be Darko’s last performance. “Let’s Hunt and Kill” is a song about life and death with a clever use of samples that might explain that death comes for us no matter what life we live, but some not-quite-religious folks might desperately pray right before death just in case the Soul Plane hasn’t taken off yet. As Darko previously mentioned in the first track, he is uncertain of God and what the afterlife holds.
One thing Darko is certain of is the media website HipHopDX deserves his hatred. I have the rare opportunity to provide background on this. I actually know something, who would’ve thunk?! Earlier this year, HipHopDX was holding a session where artists could send their songs in and they would be played on air during their talk show. Darko sent in “The Day I Beat Yao-Ming” and the HipHopDX crew shut it off mid-game and laughed about how bad they thought it was. Darko, who is adept at funneling his emotions into music, pretty much explains in song that HipHopDX is a haven for mediocrity and pointless gossip, the staff who called his song a “novelty act” failed to give his music a chance because it didn’t sound like the recycled flows and beats that we all love so much. This isn’t just a case of an artist claiming people don’t understand, we do hold some mainstream artists on a pedestal for bland tunes and anything out of the ordinary is shunned.
“Posers” follows afterward which also deals with the belief that many popular or mainstream artists might not be as happy with themselves as they appear. No I’m not saying we need Joe Budden to yell at every rapper about how happy they aren’t, but it’s worth considering that record company contracts can constrict the creative effort of artists. If you’re struggling with finding your own unique sound, maybe hearing Darko express his will help you in “The Learning Channel.” I don’t mean to simplify my critique into saying something like “this song is so Darko,” but his lyrics are sometimes incomparable. It’s a weirdly stimulating use of references to current topics and otherwise forgettable pop culture, and he has a perfect sense of when to drop an idiom or create his own phrase.
Much of Darko’s subject matter is based on the wrong and frustrating. “The SP-404 Has Been Drinking” illustrates how problems surface in waves during gigs and performances, and no one has control over anything when it comes to production mishaps. Here Darko is performing a modern cover of “The Piano Has Been Drinking” by Tom Waits. Personifying the audio equipment as hitting the bottle before showtime aptly explains how sound equipment decides when it wants to work, and nothing is ever the musician’s fault. “The Earth Isn’t Fucking Flat” is about eating your vegetables, and it also states Darko’s wishes for honest success are as real as the Earth being flat. This is a topical way to explain that he knows how to become successful but refuses to listen to people who encourage him to sell out for it, being as stubborn as Flat-Earthers. They have to know it’s round, but choose to deny all modern evidence so they can get attention and stay in the NBA.
Darko is one of the few artists that really, truly knows how to convey his emotions. “Golden Tears” is raw and not catchy at all, as it shouldn’t be. It’s another track about Darko’s perceived destiny to remain unsuccessful because he’s making the music he wants to instead of catering to general audiences. The descriptions are heartbreaking. His tears may be golden because musicians with thriving careers tend to make what their employers want, meaning a profitable “golden” yet hollow banger three or four minutes in length. Darko says “drown my children,” his children being the music, and “sing me a song, like a bird in a cage,” Darko being the bird in a cage. Darko is critical of musicians but also of himself, mulling over what it will look like if he takes his life and finally wondering if he’s good enough to get into Heaven in “I Don’t Wanna Be.” I don’t know any other artist who is this personal. “Johnny” recounts a winter where Darko’s childhood friend fell through the ice on a frozen lake and died, a painful tragedy that Darko remembers to this day.
Don’t let all this pessimism about life and the music industry get you down. Darko is capable of love. Take “Lo-Fi Princess” for example. Darko swoons over a lo-fi beat delivering vintage thoughts of love, or comical but genuine examples of what Post-WWII love songs were like. For example, Darko noticed his crush buying lunch meat at the deli, and fantasizes about tying each other’s shoes and shaking her brother’s hand as a monument to their love. “Falling Into You” is a funkier adventure of love, replacing the innocent 1950s desires of sock-hops and cotton candy with Darko’s strong references and wild ability to spit out verbage that is unfamiliar but innately understood. The fatality that is “Let’s Get ialive” features Darko’s pal ialive signals the end of album in a fun collaboration produced by Doc Heller. Doc Heller is also Darko, sorry to spoil the secret. Finally, “Couch Surfing For Eternity (About A Band)” is Darko’s eulogy for the band YJY, a group he admired that broke up this year. The death of a band is an appropriate end to an album.
“Watered Down Demon Fuzz” is another window into Darko The Super’s distressed home. His subject matter doesn’t stray from the music industry, his tormented thoughts, and love songs, but it’s his delivery of these topics that keep me coming back. I’ve always admired the way samples can be manipulated not just to reinforce a message but to alter or even change their original meaning. Whatever sound Darko borrows becomes his own. His lyrics continue to meld humor with artistic despair. It’s like watching a vaudeville show where one of the actors farts a lot. Pies are thrown, but the whipped cream won’t wash away the farts. Some audience members will understand and admire the actor’s release of natural humanity because the actor is doing great, while other onlookers will go across the street to see a show that’s fart-free but dull and performed every hour without adjustments. There’s nothing wrong with not wanting farts, but it’s unique and impressive that the volcanic actor is still going despite the scarce appeal and display of life’s harsher realities. Darko’s music isn’t farts, but it repels certain audiences just the same because of how it sounds and what he’s about. I hope he never stops making music, but I do hope he can ease his troubled mind and find a place where he’s comfortable.
American underground rapper, music producer, CEO, and Eisner Award-nominated comic book writer from New York City.