Kartell’em’s back in the scene, but “Tell’em Wasak” says something else: Did they ever leave?
The time in between their 2018 debut “Tell’em Once” and 2021 sophomore record saw several bouts of collabs and solo pursuits for the group’s members. Now, Kartell’em emerges again as a hip-hop collective with an album that typifies their DNA yet possessing enough nerve to go beyond it.
Dropped last Friday, the seven-track album opens with the volatile energy of “Worldwide,” as it lays the foundations of the record and Kartell’em’s real premise. Right off the bat, the group says (and proves) that they’re formidable players in the rap game, and it’s treated as an indisputable fact.
Packed with lyrics that hype up the collective that are chugging along to a “Finding Nemo” sample—yes, that’s “Sharkbait, ooh ha ha”—it serves as a seamless starting point to “Buscopan,” with its more laid-back, ’90s beats. Yorko carries out a steady Filipino verse that’s almost like a callback to the early fathers of hip-hop.
From then on, it’s a mix of Kartell’em-trademarked drives. “Samurai” peeks into a more aggressive side that cuts across and magnifies the next chill-inducing tracks “Stack” and “Not a Gang.” The sixth piece “Dynasty” is spliced with fast bars and a sung refrain that’s taken as a nugget of wisdom: “Sarili lang ang magliligtas sa ’yo / Ikaw at pag-ikot ng mundo […] Anybody could be anything.”
“Au Revoir” caps off “Tell’em Wasak” with pure and sedated instrumentals produced by Ruiijikun. Sure, it’s quiet with its lack of words. But to us listeners, it’s a jarring move from the previous tracks that are cutting in revelations of society, the rap scene and Kartell’em as a group. “Tell’em Wasak” is ideal because of that—it’s explosive in its verses and high in its energy, but it doesn’t just stop there.
Listen to “Tell’em Wasak” here.
Photography by Morris Mueller