Strictly Hammers: ‘The Weak Album 2 - Homegrown’

by Ryan Glenn

For the best possible cold press, your coffee has to steep.  At the very least, it sits overnight and for more than 24 hours.  The longer it steeps, the richer and bolder the flavor becomes.  The longer the bean is roasted, the darker it becomes, raising its smoothness by lowering the acidity of the coffee.  In essence, the slow, refined process brings out the best.  Sometimes, I want a light roast... and I want it hot and quick.  

Strictly Hammers have again thrown caution to the wind and crafted a follow up to the seven track ‘Weak Album’, with ‘The Weak Album 2: Homegrown’.  Although it took more than seven days this go around, it is twice the length and much richer in production.  In a way, it has steeped longer, and in various ways.

Nick Pawlenty and Matthew Ihle got together as MidiEvil and Crimson to form Strictly Hammers back in 2013, to release ‘Tempus Fugit’; a stoned out, solipsistic album that, while average, showed a lot of promise.  It’s also largely a two person operation, with a few features attached (notably DeM atlaS of recent Rhymesayers hype).  This is interesting, because while listening to The Weak Album 2, I actually had to ask who Strictly Hammers was.  It seems as though they have outgrown even themselves and become more of a collective, temporarily known as Lake FX, overseeing the efforts of the groups.  It is certainly still masterminded by MidiEvil and Crimson, but the list of guests is so vast it takes over the whole back cover. We’re talking around 40 contributing MCs and bands including The Horror, Tin Can Gin, and Black River Revue to name a few. 

The album opens with long time KUWS DJ, Walt Dizzo, introducing the album as the outgoing director of the Homegrown Music Festival, over a vaporwave, synthed out instrumental track featuring The Horror.  In these 10 seconds, the listener immediately hears the change of scope. It is bigger and more ambitious than anything the duo has released before.  It also shows exactly what this collection of songs is going to be.  It’s a lot of stuff happening all at once, but it is all so wonderfully Duluth.  It’s all over the place and chaotic, but it works.

That’s not to say it’s unclassifiable, as it is a mixtape collection.  There are a ton of great songs here, but it’s hard to call it a whole album, as each bit feels so different.  There is a great display of cultivated talent all working together in the strict time constraints, but it does also feel like each song is on its own.  There is the previously mentioned instrumental, the chiptune video game song (so many character references on top of samples), club bangers, Immortal Technique poetic, trap faded stylings and more, all in one sweet, 15 track package... And in a way, it is perfect as just that.

‘The Weak Album 2’ is subtitled as ‘Homegrown’, and it is truly just that.  It perfectly encapsulates the week that is Homegrown.  There are so many sounds happening throughout the festival that it is impossible to see it all.  There are so many artists it is impossible to know who is even who anymore.  It’s also more than just the festival, the album itself is home grown.  It is all the hip hop sounds of Duluth.  As a recent transplant to the area, I cannot think of a better way to start my dive into the community here than with what has been offered up from Hammers.  If you haven’t checked in with your local crews, do it and do it here.  You’ll get a great start from this.

To check out the album, visit their Bandcamp page for some free listens, at strictlyhammers.bandcamp.com, or to find out how to get your hands on a hardcopy, or learn more about the group, visit their Facebook page at facebook.com/StrictlyHammersMidiVilCrimsonNemo/