Diabolic is a relatively unknown hip-hop artist from New York who first gained notice with a hidden verse on Immortal Technique's Revolutionary: Volume 1. It may seem odd to review a hip-hop album on a punk news Web site, and maybe it is, but musical experience shouldn’t be limited to a single genre, and it shouldn’t be ignored when something great appears on the scene (albeit a completely different scene aesthetically).
The fact of the matter is that Diabolic is a master lyricist with something to say, which seems to be less and less common in today’s mainstream hip-hop. Perhaps that’s because Liar & A Thief is anything but mainstream. The lyrics are vulgar, edgy and downright offensive, yet cleverly and intelligently written as seen in the track “Riot”: “’Cause people shouldn’t fear their government, that’s the issue / the government should fear to people’s right to pack a pistol / see, it’s our right to start a riot around here / and publicly decapitate the king, right in town square.” Unfortunately, Diabolic occasionally falls prey to the common tendency to be offensive primarily for the sake of shock value, but more often than not his vulgarity is used to get a message across--a message formed from Diabolic’s experiences in the lower class culture of New York City. His lyrics are culturally eye-opening and disturbing. Yet he delivers them with such mastery of pun and word use as to be envied. His delivery is obnoxious and in your face, but full of honesty--at least as he sees it. The subjects include criticisms of the government, police, class and the music industry, as well as messages on self-destruction, conspiracies and revolution.
Hip-hop has always been hard for me to digest because of the music or beats supporting the lyrics. Liar & A Thief solves that problem, providing easily digestible backtracks often involving piano and violin on top of traditional hip-hop beats. The album also thankfully limits the common interludes and sound clips found on many hip-hop albums that just seem to interrupt the flow. There are less guests than a traditional rap album, but there is a notable appearance by Immortal Technique on the track "Frontlines," as well as featuring other notable underground artists such as Vinnie Paz, Ill Bill and Canibus
Hip-hop may not be your thing, and it’s certainly not punk, but I encourage everyone with at least a mild interest to check this out. To many, punk is about ideas and freedom of expression, and these values are expressed in new and different ways on this album. It’s an excellent album with masterful rapping and lyrics, complete with pleasant backtracks. The one notable downfall of the album is Diabolic’s tendency to revert to violence in his lyrics, a common hip-hop tendency that only serves to reduce the credibility of his message while contributing to his own street cred.