Humans are bacteria. Or at least that’s one of the first notions presented on the first track of rapper Cubbiebear’s latest album, “Force Back To Sleep”.
“Force Back To Sleep” is the second self released album for the Baltimore-based rapper who, in his five years since moving to town, has managed to cultivate a respectable following in the Baltimore rap scene.
On stage, both his lyrics and demeanor are powerful and aggressive, to say the least. But in most other scenarios Cubbiebear, A.K.A. Josh Bailey, is actually a pretty quiet and calm guy. Several nights a week and some days you can see this while he works as a bartender at the Charles Village Pub on St. Paul Street. From my own experience, I can say that Bailey is a man of few words when he isn’t performing.
Where most bartenders jump at the opportunities for small talk with their patrons, Bailey has a habit of keeping his conversations short. “There are only so many stories you can hear in a bar,” he says. “After a while you kind of just get sick and tired of it.”
For all his attempts at avoiding words engendered by alcohol in his day to day, it’s hard to find a point in “Force Back To Sleep” where his relationship with said substance isn’t implied or explicitly referenced. This is made obvious in the opening track “Alcohol for Sleep”, the beginning of the track “I don’t care” that starts with him contemplating on the idea of switching back to hard liquor, and in the music video for the song “Tame,” where beer from flying cans literally rains down on him.
This, however, is only the surface of what you could describe as a collection of works wrought with angst, inner turmoil, anger, and rage.
His words are set to a style of rap music that is reminiscent of bands like Dead Prez, or Aesop Rock. There is a strong emphasis on lyrics. Most of the tracks are comprised of heavy bass peppered with a crashing snare and accompanied by more delicate instruments like piano in guitar.
On the track “Still Can’t Fly,” Cubbiebear says, “Dying isn’t the punishment, life is. We’re all bad people. Earth is god giving up.” It’s a chilling sentiment by any standard.
So where does that put us as far as a What Weekly album review goes? This publication is, on principle, supposed to be one comprised of stories that bolster a positive image of the city and world we live in.
“Force Back To Sleep” is a collection of songs that convey a message saying that the world has gone to shit and we only have our self to blame.
But what’s interesting about Cubbiebear’s dismal feelings towards people is that he still took the time to write his thoughts down, put sick music behind it and release it into the very world for which he holds so much contempt.
It proves that, for as much as his outlook might be grim, he still harbors hope that something will change for the better.
Where other artists try to identify the beauty in this world, Cubbiebear shines a spotlight on aspects of life that he thinks most people would rather see swept under the rug or politely ignored. He points out the elements in life he finds superficial and then screams it into a microphone in front of captivated crowds.
He does this because he knows that if something is right in front of your face, it’s hard to ignore. In “Force Back To Sleep,” Cubbiebear tries to tell us that he knows we are capable of being better than what we are, and he’s pissed that we aren’t doing enough about it.