700 Bliss – Nothing To Declare
The chemistry that Philadelphia’s Moor Mother and New Jersey’s DJ Haram have concocted together as 700 Bliss is alchemical. The two make for a near perfect creative partnership; feeding one another’s ambitions outside of their usual scope so that together, they create work that feels as playful as it is potent. For Moor Mother, Haram opens the gates to the dancefloor and the experimental rapper’s clubbier side, while for Haram, Moor Mother is the perfect conduit for the sort of political discourse the DJ sees as inherent to the club space. While their debut album Spa 700 began breaking new ground for both artists, it’s their latest album Nothing To Declare, where the duo come into their own. In fact, in the face of this album it becomes apparent how Spa 700 was a negotiation of their styles. Nothing To Declare is wilder, less considerate in a sense, a braver cacophony of 700 Bliss’s ideas. The result is a daring album that’s possibly one the year’s most unique and fully realised thus far, an unbridled club-rap hybrid that sounds like one of the most original bodies of work in recent memory.
Thematically, Nothing To Declare launches a sonic assault on the patriarchy, diving into matters of access and silencing. It’s familiar territory for Moor Mother, but she’s approaching her subject matter with a fresh performativity that’s less morose than her usual spoken word manifestos, and more tongue-in-cheek. Her signature vocal mutations take on new life here. There’s a delicious sort of irony to the androgyny of her voice as it twists and morphs against Haram’s club beats. On the title track, it’s backed by an obnoxious bounce production littered with irreverent cartoon samples and demented laugh tracks. “All the heterosexuals wanna be queer” Moor Mother slurs, as her voice is stretched further with each consonant. On Death Grips pseudo-parody Bless Grips, she’s crumpled into some sort of snarling, infernal monster. She shares a verse with Haram here, whose deadpan Valley girl-esque delivery is at once unexpected and disarming; this new voice, is it just the same voice sans distortion? It’s a moment that emphasises the brilliance of Moor Mother’s disguise: she could be anyone, anything, all at once. Particularly, her voice bends gender to her will. On the interlude Spirit Airlines, she lowers her register to interpolate the braggadocios and misogynistic ad-libs of male rappers. But Moor Mother’s vocal genderfucking is at its most potent on tracks like Candace Parker, one of the set’s more seething moments, with lines like “they rape our mothers while y’all just record” spat to an abrasive beat from Palestine’s Muqata’a.
The politics are balanced with a laudable sense of self-awareness. On mid-album skit Easyjet, Haram and Moor Mother assume the role of two women debating the relevance of 700 Bliss, considering them too vulgar and verbose to take seriously. “Motherfucker this, or motherfucker that,” Moor Mother complains of 700 Bliss’s ‘meaningless’ lyrics, smartly gesturing toward the album title’s loaded double entendre. It’s a key theme to the concept of Nothing To Declare, echoed later and more ardently on Crown, as Moor Mother fiercely declares, “our silence is killing us.” Nothing To Declare burns hotter from its midsection as the album shifts from experimental rap toward abrasive noise art and Moor Mother’s flow gravitates closer toward her usual poetics. On Capitol, a glitchy bass track underpins Moor Mother’s recount of the January 6th attacks on the Washington Capitol. Sirens blare as Moor Mother sermonises, creating an atmosphere wrought with tension on one of Nothing To Declare’s most beguiling moments.
Nothing To Declare reveals a 700 Bliss far more settled as a duo, more outspoken and fearless than before. The result is an album that transgresses the conventions of both rap and club music, while remaining faithful to the political inclinations of its creators. And those inclinations feel more prescient now than ever.
See the video for Bless Grips below.
Follow 700 Bliss