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Sikes! and The New Violence “I’ve Seen Better” Album Review

Sikes! and the New Violence
I’ve Seen Better
Self Released August 1, 2015

Album photo by Hannah Altman

Sikes AKA Brian Howe’s is an alternative/indie hip hop artist hailing from Pittsburgh,
PA. Whereas most hip hop artists rap over beats and samples, Sikes has a live backing
band behind him known as The New Violence. This album, I’ve Seen Better, consists
of ten tracks and is the follow up to 2012’s Self Portraits and Self Destruction,
thoughthis is his first album with The New Violence.

First track “Low Expectations,” is a good example of his unique sound. His rapping
delivery is immediately arresting, combining the dark humor of Eminem with the
delivery style of The Beastie Boys. While most rappers like to brag about their
prowess, Sikes says it like it is with brutal self-honesty: “Went from being comfy to
just flat broke, I went from being sober to just being a joke…”. This is set to a
backdrop of a funky beat, a wildly unpredictable bass line and crazy synth
sounds/backing vocals.

“The Cold Shoulder” and “Ravenous Plastic” are both viciously satirical, often hilarious
takedowns of social media/fake friendship and plastic surgery/celebrity culture,
though his ire is just as often aimed at himself. Musically, The New Violence blur the
lines between rock and hip hop; imagine Rage Against The Machine after dropping
acid. “Sick Sad World,” paints a powerful but bleak picture of modern relationships and
his own experiences, while “Just Swim,” is Sikes and his band at their most RATM aggressive.

“On Being Myself,” sets self-loathing to a Chili Peppers style bass line, before the super
catchy “Scam Artists,” provides a real album highlight, a ferocious deconstruction of
societies corrupt institutions and beliefs that would make a strong single. The closing
“Parasites” is a poignant ending, a nostalgic look back to the simpler days of youth
contrasted with a messed up adulthood.

Overall, this is a refreshingly different album that breathes fresh life into hip hop’s
stale formula of macho posturing. Sikes has plenty to say about society and the
everyday struggles he faces, conveyed with a razor sharp honesty and gallows
humor. There is equal ingenuity in the backing music, and live musicians prove a
much more exciting energy than looped, sampled beats. With several potential
singles, this album is sure to make a big impact on the hip hop world.

Don’t miss Sikes! and The New Violence this Friday for their album release party at Get Hip
Warehouse at 7:30. Special guests for this all ages show include, Instead of Sleeping, Trashbag
and I, The Conflict along with an artwork exhibition.

-Review by Alex Faulkner for SSE

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