The Sun Go Nova Collection (14 Tracks: 2 Volumes)
Vol.1 : Sun Go Nova Ep (prod. Earl Sweatshirt & Knxwledge)
Vol. 2: Sun Go Nova Beat-Tape (prod. Denmark Vessey)
Like most truly original artists, Denmark Vessey defies easy understanding. He’s a Detroit rapper and cult rap hero currently living in New York City, named after a brilliant 19th century slave-turned-carpenter who was convicted and executed for planning what would’ve been the largest slave revolt in North American history. He’s funnier than most political rappers, more political than punch line spitters, and too imaginative for regressive underground stereotypes.
It’s all readily apparent on his latest project, SunGoNova, a breezy exercise of warped soul and eccentric raps produced entirely by Earl Sweatshirt and Knxwledge. The record cohered on a whim not long after Earl proclaimed that you needed to buy Denmark’s Martin Lucid Dream if you needed food.
A subsequent trip to LA found Denmark linking with the pair and returning home with a pack of beats to rap over. There was no idea to formally collaborate but a loose concept began to percolate in the ensuing months. Record sessions commenced in Chicago, where Denmark simultaneously laid down alongside tracks for his Buy Muy Drugs collaboration and SunGoNova. Sessions were conducted in grueling 48-hour marathon increments, where sleep was a secondary concern.
“For lack of a better word, it’s alternative and left-field,” Denmark says. “It’s not light substance-wise, but light in that I want people to think of it as a treat, a little instance of coolness, a flash in the moment but not to be forgotten.”
Despite the brevity, there’s an innate gravity to the words themselves—especially in tandem with the psychedelic thump of the production: “If rap don’t work, I’m whipping this fishscale out/Probably not though/I watched The Wire and it looked fire, but I checked online but the streets not firing.”
In a few breaths, Denmark has the capacity to come off as street-wise and sarcastic, pop culture fluent but stand-up comic self-deprecating. These are the same qualities that led Rolling Stone to call Martin Lucid Dream one of 2015’s best rap albums, while hailing his “sharp sense of humor” and introspection. Pitchfork glowed about how Buy Muy Drugs revealed that in “his own unique way, [Denmark] is pushing us to look beyond the veil and to not take things at face value.”
This complex mentality is applied in rapid-fire rap form on SunGoNova. Denmark references everything from a Hollywood reboot of Roots where they cast Tobey Maguire as the lead to the feeling of waking up in an old K-Mart. He’s praying to the Based God and recalling the fan who said he was heavier there a freight car. Allusions to Biggie and buying shoes on Venmo, esoteric strains of weed and ayahuasca all propitiously clash.
As the album fades out, Denmark’s demanding coffee with Ethiopian beans, but the listener is still wide awake, wanting more. It’ll arrive soon enough.