Sharkula x Mukqs – Prune City

To be released on cassette and digitally on 2/1/19. C37 – brown tape with black imprints. Pro-dubbed at NAC. 2-sided 3-panel J-Card with artwork from HausMo Max and Sharkula.

Underground hip hop wild card Sharkula (born Brian Wharton) has carved himself into the grain of the Chicago music scene through 20 years of determined grinding. He records his free-associative verses over a wide spectrum of scene-sourced beats and has built a catalog of over 40 individual albums & EPs that he wraps in his own distinctively drawn packaging and sells hand-to-hand across the streets and bars/venues of the city – establishing an infinite circuit of local haunts and a constant stream of selfies with fans on the sidewalk or public transit. Hausu Mountain co-founder Max Allison records under the name Mukqs. He twists elements of noise, techno, video game music, and free-for-all sample collage into rapidly shifting productions united under the banner of his strictly live, hardware-focused practice. Prune City marks their first collaboration as MC/producer duo Sharkula x Mukqs. The album finds Sharkula stretching out into hereto unexplored realms of discontinuous thought and randomized rhythmic cadences, while Mukqs zeroes in on a ramshackle strain of rap production animated by stuttering percussion loops and washes of dark cityscape synthesis. Recorded over the course of one afternoon as a series of first take freestyles, the album reveals the innate chemistry between the two artists’ freewheeling approaches to song structure and improvisation, both warping time-honored tropes and genres into uniquely vibrant, personal art. The collaboration extends to the album’s visuals, as Allison’s finely detailed, pixelated mosaic style that has come to define Hausu Mountain’s psychedelic aesthetic meets the packaging design of dense sharpie collages that Wharton draws onto his arsenal of burned CD releases.

On the microphone, Sharkula pours the raw details of his life into tumbling rhyme structures speckled with surreal imagery, references plucked from 40+ years of obscure pop culture, and scatological stream-of-consciousness commentary. He approaches rapping from a place of unbridled joy and humor, lacing his verses with laughter and topical one-off observations that reveal just how instantaneously his brain fires when he enters the freestyle mindset. Inspired as much by the out-to-lunch alien approach of his friend and collaborator Kool Keith as by the deliberate, battle-ready bars of golden age icons like Rakim and KRS-One, Sharkula’s raps feel at once like a time capsule through his extensive hip hop tutelage and a kaleidoscopic trip through the mental recesses of a true stylistic outsider. The beat pack delivered by Mukqs bears the influence of the ice-cold horror score productions of DJ Paul and Juicy J of Three 6 Mafia, the hard-chopped pianos and zig-zagging percussion patterns of DJ Premier, and the fragmented hands-on-MPC loops of J Dilla. Mukqs frosts his beats with bursts of jittering FM synths and patches of harsh static or lush ambient drift, pitting loops against each other in criss-crossing layers of rigid and arrhythmic voices. When he takes a break from brooding atmospheres and punishing boom bap kick drums, he coasts into instances of oceanic, major-key synth bliss built over steady hi-hats and sine-wave basslines. With Prune City, Sharkula x Mukqs eke out some bizarre, anachronistic vision of hip hop that hovers somewhere in the margins of underground mixtape culture and the noise scene’s ongoing fascination with the cassette tape as the ultimate delivery method of unpredictable, ego-erasing sound.