The following is a guest post, written by Zachary Lee, a Wade-O Radio listener and supporter. Lee’s bio and contact info can be found at the bottom of this post. If you’re interested in guest blogging, please contact our managing editor, Mikaela.
Hip-hop artists’ modern struggle can best be defined by the phrase “jack of all trades, master of none.” Artists desire to create more nuanced music and such a goal can often clash with mainstream culture’s demand for pounding trap beats and convivial club bangers. In order to not be pigeon-holed or defined solely by one sound, some of hip-hop’s most popular acts have radically redefined themselves, whether it is Future subsequently releasing the Atlanta-trap inspired Future and R&B Hndrxx only a week apart, or Childish Gambino’s third LP Awaken My Love, which marked a major tonal shift from his previous projects from hip-hop to psychedelic funk. Thus, consistency and versatility forever seem to be at odds, with artists having to choose between the two.
However, for Fern and Marty, the dynamic duo that make up Social Club Misfits, they have excelled in stringing together sonically different harmonies in order to tell a narrative. Their signing to Capitol CMG in 2016 did not mitigate their unique voice but served as a platform to amplify their sound and mantra: misfits who did not censor their honesty or idiosyncrasies in order to fit in but were willing to stand out for the Gospel and challenge the mainstream. Their EP The Misfit Generation was the perfect appetizer, and their main course in their form of their debut LP The Misadventures of Fern and Marty was equally impressive. It was a smorgasbord of different sounds that saw the pair rap about everything from past and present relationships (“Time 4 That”) to the Big Apple’s eccentric citizens (“The One with the New Yorkers”).
Their second album Into the Night is, for better or worse, more of the same, but the diversity of the tracks is grounded by a relatable and relevant concept that serves as the foundation for tying together sonically different songs. If The Misadventures of Fern and Marty was a buffet of different tunes, scattered but tasteful, Into the Night listens like a five-course meal, where each song and component has a purpose that fits in to everything.
Into the Night is meant to be a rallying cry for Christians to engage and enter into the darkness of the world. For Fern and Marty, they know that the hope they have is not in this world and that because Jesus is guiding them, they can enter “into the night” knowing that no weapon shall prevail and that neither “death nor life, neither angels, nor demons” will stop them from doing the Lord’s work. As such, the majority of the beats here are moodier and somber than past Social Club Misfit projects, which were usually categorized by more effervescence. A handful of lighter tracks are sprinkled throughout, acting as glimmers and representations of the hope we have in the Gospel.
The appropriately titled “Nightmare” kicks off the project, an eerie and spectral beat with a simple drumline. It’s easy to imagine Marty and Fern revamping an old horror movie soundtrack for this song. Over the haunting cadence and lethargic tempo, this song acts as a quick reminder to fellow misfits that multiple projects in, they have not forgotten their mission, and that “the boys are back in town and we go into the night / Fighting for what is right, ’til the end always.” Marty and Fern trade bars for the first and fifth verse before rapping individually. Marty is worried about the state of modern rap (“Everybody is sounding the same nowadays / Album after album no breaks nowadays”) and that a true nightmare would be to start sounding like everyone else rather than remain true to himself. In conjunction, Fern reminds listeners that it’s important to remember that “God in the center is the reason why we’re traveling / Grace got me feeling amazing, I feel extravagant”, and that success solely comes from God, not from one’s own abilities. There’s no better way to introduce the theme yet also herald that everyone’s favorite Christian rap duo is back.
Immediately after reaffirming their mission statement, Marty and Fern get ready to “Dive” right in. The track differs from the single version in that it features a more mellow intro, but it quickly crescendos into an explosive cacophony of drums and pulsing resonances, all held together by featured vocalist BEAM’s ad-libs and exclamations. It’s one of the best hype songs in recent CHH memory, and while on most Social Club Misfits tracks, Marty’s quirkiness balances out Fern’s gruffness, they both match the ferocity of the track here with aggressive bars and flow. In a rapid-fire sixteen, Marty highlights Social Club’s humble beginnings (“tour bus was a Camry”) but that they are “still moving like we independent.” BEAM’s hollers are some of the highlights of the song and as Fern nears the end of his verse, it’s almost as if he and BEAM are racing to see who can finish first, resulting in electrifying chemistry.
As expected with every Social Club project, Marty and Fern were able to assemble an impressive consortium of guest vocalists and while their debut album saw their reach extend mostly to the CHH circle (see: Andy Mineo and wordsplayed) their guest list is much more varied, from CCM artists (Danny Gokey and Tauren Wells), mumble rapper Foggieraw, and perhaps most excitingly, Jordin Sparks. The duo is cognizant about the power of their stars, and graciously let them take the spotlight as they offer more supporting roles; you can tell that they specifically produced and curated the songs not just to highlight their verses but make each artist not have to step too far out of their comfort zone. The result is a beautiful collaboration that are both inherently Social-esque but distinctly unique.
“War Cry” with Tauren Wells acts almost as a spiritual sequel to “Misfit Anthem.” Over an orchestral backdrop and uplifting piano keys, Marty and Fern rap about God’s saving work, (“Was paralyzed by depression / But heaven and earth came together / And You came to my rescue”) while Tauren’s hook is encourages believers to boldly spread the Gospel and stand firm even if the world tries to knock them down. It feels very much like it could be a modern praise song. Respectively, in addition to “Dive” Social Club has graced CHH fans with another banger in the form of “Tuyo”, a fast-paced, crowd-pleasing track that makes you want to bust out your grooviest dance moves. Both Danny Gokey and Fern’s contributions are done completely in spanish, and I found that even with my six years of expertise, I needed to listen multiple times, but lines like “Que tu te glorifique en mi poesía / Pa que gente se den cuenta no por joyeria” make it worth it (translation: That you glorify in my poetry / So that people realize it is not for riches). For the English listeners, Jordin Sparks and Marty graciously sing and rap in english. If there was any doubt before, tracks like this and “Solo” are further proof that Social Club should consider an all Latin album.
Other bangers sparsed throughout are “Clear”, “Into the Night”, and “Happy Accident”, which despite its title is anything but jubilant; Fern and Marty flex their lyrical prowess with Fern spitting “I came from a time that you had to rap / I’m making it in a time you don’t have to” and Marty confident saying “We got this game in a chokehold.” “Clear” is a darker tune, more in vein with the titular “Into the Night” but Foggieraw’s verse elevates it above as he matches the grimy and pounding instrumental, almost wearing it like a skin-tight suit. Previous singles “Lucky” and “Say Goodbye” reappear here to give the listener some more time for introspection and quiet before the album transitions to its more somber elements.
Yet Marty and Fern are more than able to hold their own for solo racks, as their respective EPs Marty for President and 68 and Douglas have shown, and they both get their time alone to shine. Marty continues his Friends theme with “The One of a Kind One”, where he humbly recounts Social Club’s ascension to stardom while marveling at the fact that they’ve been able to achieve much success despite keeping God at the focus of their music (“Went from underground to a sold-out crowd / The fans could never say that we’re selling out / Never compromise or take the safest route / You can’t duplicate this sound, I gotta fake ya out”). Fern’s “Number One (A Song For You)” excitingly will be included in the 2018 film Canal Street and in it he raps about pushing himself musically and that his success is all attributed to God.
Through Into the Night’s diverse experimentation, one message rings true: if God is for us, who can be against us? Rather than escape and flee from the issues of the world, Fern and Marty remind listeners to press into what is going on in the world. While one may find tragedy and hurt, there’s also a lot of love and beauty, and God’s power sustains through it all.