When Micranots' debut CD, Obelisk Movements, hit the streets in October 2000, the Minneapolis-bred, ATL transplants MC I Self Devine and DJ Kool Akiem were primed to dominate Atlanta's developing underground hip-hop scene. The album bore the mark of Bigg Jus' Sub Verse label (MF Doom, Blackalicious), and I Self's massive stage presence and Akiem's wicked turntablism skills were steeped in abstract beats, grimy production and the urban avant-garde. The duo crafted a balance of baroque, cerebral sounds that reined in their eccentricities with a bombastic mix of staccato funk and slow melodies.
At the time of its release, the album's swirl of discordant sounds, samples and conscious flows over a kick drum recalled the backpack hip-hop of the early '90s. A decade after its release, such songs as "Balance," "Culture" and "Illegal Busyness" are a snapshot of hip-hop at the cutting edge of the new millennium. Press play on Obelisk Movements now and the horn stabs and drum stutter of the album's "Intro" swell with fuzzy, dark matter, moving at a pace that's slow and lumbering by modern hip-hop standards. The album sounds dated, but as "Intro" bleeds into the album's first single, "Pitch Black Ark," an eloquent boom underscores what was then the collective subconscious's view of life in the wake of Y2K's failed threats. The silent techno fear reflected in the album's deluge of spiritual and social dissidence is at once a sparse and unwitting Matrix-like suite hanging in the balance of anxiety and dark grooves.
At 74 minutes, the album is an endurance test that loses some of its steam around the halfway mark. But the strengths eclipse the rough spots, and "Exodus" ends the record on a textural departure that drips like molasses from the headphones. Like the ancient stone monoliths the album's title evokes, Obelisk Movements captures the sounds, production style and mind frame of an era gone by. Before returning to the Twin Cities, Micranots left Atlanta with an underground classic.
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