The Band of the Hawk

The Band of the Hawk

Lords of the Texas Underground



Describing the sound of the Texas-based rap quartet known as the Band of the Hawk comes easily  - like any great or lasting endeavor–once the foundation has been formed.  Take a generation of music fans raised on the excess and conscious experimentation of 1980’s music, which survived the ravages of divorce and Reaganomics with heavy doses of global spirituality, SF movies, comic books and video games.  If the soulful message of the 70’s was that the world is a ghetto, then by 1990 that ghetto had undergone a tonal shift in its core values.  Especially in the rap game, where rugged, rough and street were no longer enough to keep brothers thriving.  Newer elements were needed as older challenges turned into fresh demands, and the surpassing of expectations became the new norm.


The Band of the Hawk rose from the ashes of a former clique, H.TX.  H.TX productions were a spacious affair: all looped menace and blunted minutiae, not unlike early RZA productions if Mr. Diggs had been raised in Houston’s Fifth Ward worshipping 90’s hood flicks more than kung fu cinema and stuck in a Mario Brothers maze.  These early efforts have since been re-absorbed, shoving way towards the Hawks’ penchants for texture over bombast, interpretation over definition.  The current line-up of the Hawks: Noah Archangel, King, Ashtonomics and 3 – succeeds in meeting the audience’s current expectation from a hip-hop group.  Each personality is equally present and distinguishable from track to track, regardless of preferred artistic attack.  Whether Noah raps or produces, or King spits coolness on the mic first or last, listeners know the unmistakable stew that is the Band of the Hawk.


Having absorbed early 90’s-era RZA into a heady, Dirty South broth, the latest Hawks release, The Last Temptation, is the perfect jump-on point for any adventurous music listener.  And adventure is key here, as the Hawks’main producer, Noah Archangel, never forgets that boom-bap is a necessary ingredient for jeeps rolling through the valley of avenues.  Hard bop jazz, East Coast hardcore, West Coast backpacker, the tonal explorations of various Eastern musics and the laid-back vocal confidence of which the Chicago masters (Common & Kanye) are known all find equal measure in his productions.  When mixed ceremoniously with video game soundtrack flavor, the Hawks tracks will appeal to any fans of Muggs, Prefuse 73, Danger Mouse, or early Gangstarr-era Primo. 


A piano loop tickles through ‘Criminal Minds’ as a whisper-beat stutters between the bars, allowing a pitch-perfect King to deliver the vocal hook in his patented syrup voice.  When Noah, 3 and Ash come in, expertly mixed over this web of activity, the magic clicks into place.  All of this happens before King’s exit verse wraps the whole affair super-tight in his grip.  Wait for the dialogue sample that fades the track out.  It’s a telling piece of theater as to where this gang’s collective head is.


A garbled soul vocal christens ‘Mayweather,’ so 3’s entry verse sets the track up just right.  It’s a group effort, as King follows 3 straight to the pocket.  There are handclaps and muted horn blasts, too.  Noah’s rap completes the circle, adding humor to the braggadocio.  Listeners can’t be blamed if they’re having 90’s flashbacks, when 40 oz’s reigned and the Towers still stood tall.


Speaking of humor, gallows throwaway one-liners drop out of ‘Kill Me’’s sides, as the brothers talk major shit while having fun with the sampled vocal hook.  The keyboard loop is a swirl, and the stomp beat is accentuated with cymbal crashes akin to mid-90’s Roots joints.  A true banger, fun and frothy.


‘NRG’ brings an achingly beautiful vocal intro/hook sung by the wondrous Posh Tash.  Her voice, breathy and direct, is a showstopper.  That the crew’s raps can maintain the song’s quality after her singing is a testament to their talent; that they provide a drop of sexiness to balance the remainder of the album’s bangers points to true craftsmanship.  ‘NRG’ is one of The Last Temptation’s many highlights, bedroom-designed and radio-ready.


If The Last Temptation is any indication of the endurance of the Band of the Hawk, then music fans should look forward to revisiting this keeper later in the century, as the Hawks will undoubtedly be unveiling a new release.