Consisting of three members (a DJ, paWL, and two rappers, Alaska and Wind'n'Breeze), Hanger 18 is established in New York City's underground hiphop scene. Their label is Def Jux, and like most groups who are signed to that label, which was founded in the late '90s by EL-P, former lead rapper of Company Flow, Hanger 18's music is informed by a grimy, post-futurist, post-human aesthetic. The urban world of their debut (and thus far only) full-length CD, The Multi-Platinum Debut Album, is overpopulated with rusting robots and spent humans, and has streets that are suffocated by the kind of rundown modernist towers that suffocate the streets of São Paulo--it is a place with very little light and lots of junk from the 20th century.
Essentially, Hanger 18's music is cold. There is no life or soul in any of the tracks on The Multi-Platinum, which was produced by paWL. This is why the CD provokes in me the very same sense of uneasiness that Cannibal Ox's Cold Veins did when it was released in 2001 by Def Jux--Cold Veins was produced by EL-P, the architect of the Def Jux frosty post-futurism. What makes me uneasy is that, though Hanger 18's raps are expertly crafted, and music is produced with great intelligence, it ultimately feels lifeless. To hear their music for the first time is much like touching a dead person for the first time--your fingertips are startled by how cold the corpse is.
But hiphop's initial inspiration, its most basic and original function, was to be the life of the party. What the rapper wanted to do more than anything else was "move the crowd," as Rakim once famously said. If they didn't "move the crowd" then they were deemed to be "wik wik wack." Alaska and Wind'n'Breeze (Hanger 18's emcees) are by no means wack (they are first-rate rappers) but their rhymes, like their DJ's beats, make no attempt to move anything that is breathing, warm, and organic. They are not rapping to me (a living human being with a beating heart) but to machines whose batteries are empty and cold.