It could be, I suppose, that the title of Panacea’s new long-player Ink is My Drink is a reference to MC Raw Poetic’s thirst, his need to express all the thoughts and ideas in his head, and the idea that the only way for him to quench that thirst is to put it down on paper, ready to relate it to the rest of the world the best way he knows how. The music contained within Ink is My Drink, however, tells another story.
Panacea is made up of two guys: There’s the aforementioned Raw Poetic, who takes care of the rhyming, and then there’s K-Murdock, who does the producing — it’s about the simplest rapper/DJ setup you could imagine. To that end, one of the biggest things that Ink is My Drink actually has going for it is the chemistry between these two artists. Raw Poetic never overpowers his production, content to glide along it, allowing it to shine in the empty spaces, while K-Murdock never sees his production shining brightly enough to take away from whatever his MC happens to be saying. The two perfectly complement one another, paving their own way as a potentially lethal combo as they continue to enhance each other’s talents.
The problem, then, is that this potential only very rarely makes itself known. Opening track “Trip of the Century” makes it sound as though Ink is My Drink is going to be a killer, as it starts off spacey and trippy, as though it’s going to coast on fluffy clouds and vintage soul samples for the entire track. And then, entirely without warning, Raw Poetic catches fire. K-Murdock picks up the pace of the percussion, Poetic spits lines like “Woke up alive, took a walk in my head / I think, so I insist I can’t tell if I’m dead”, and the whole thing flows like water down a steep incline. In the grand scheme it doesn’t mean a hell of a lot, but it rips. The “ding” noise on “Invisible Seas” is oddly hypnotic, like hearing the bell that goes off when you leave your headlights on as set to a hip-hop song. Album-closer “Starlite” is an incredible track for most of the same reasons that “Trip of the Century” is. For sure, Raw Poetic is at his most impressive when he’s spitting at high speed.
That’s about it.
The idea that Raw Poetic only sounds great when he’s rapping fast might actually be the biggest problem — he’s very good with his rhythm and his technical prowess, but it’s very rare that he actually finds something worth saying. Mostly he talks about keeping a positive attitude, or how people won’t leave him alone, and occasionally he delves into the evils of the world, which is all fine, really, but it all sounds the same! He may as well be reading names out of the phone book for all the emotion he puts into it. He just doesn’t sound hungry, he doesn’t sound as though there is any true conviction behind what he’s saying, and it saps any emotion out of the words of the songs. How do you write a song called “Burning Bush”, decry the limits of a two-party system, accuse the general public of having blinders on, and slap it with a hook that consists entirely of a repeated “Hey, yeah, yeah”? How can you reconcile the fact that a defiant track like “Reel Me In”, complete with a sample from Carl Douglas’ “Kung Fu Fighting”, sounds like a sleepytime chill-out jam? That sort of cut needs power, it needs bite, it needs oomph, and it never gets any of that.
As a result, Panacea never transcends the label of easy-listening-hip-hop, something you could easily put on in the background of a chill party without ever threatening to steal the spotlight from the good conversation or the beer pong tournament. Raw Poetic has the rhythm, and K-Murdock complements him perfectly, but they need to be willing to step out of their comfort zone a bit to create something that truly connects with their audience. Until they do, they’ll always be in the background.