Blood Shore Season 1 | Xavier Wulf

Though they may not always be as clear as one would like to believe, certain moments that mark the truest beginnings of iconic periods in musical history do tend to stick out amongst even the widest variety of singles, albums, or any other releases from a given era. Within these moments is a certain sense of sheer confidence and optimism -- a creative aura unlike anything else in that given scene, whatever it may be.

Again, sometimes these moments are either few and far between, or even nonexistent in some scenes as they came to be or currently are at this moment. But when iconic releases come to manifest an entire period to come, it makes whatever release that ends up being that much more special by itself, while undoubtedly adding to the combined credibility and memorability of that said scene in the process.

To say that Xavier Wulf’s early work teased towards a new beginning for underground hip-hop is almost too obvious at this point. He began the decade championing the Memphis-driven sounds that practically defined the Internet rap age at that time as Ethelwulf, but his transition into his now-iconic pseudonym brought with it a sweeping change in his image, influence, and overall artistic status as he and his contemporaries began developing a sound all to their own.

And they did so with impressive release after impressive release, with some of these projects even becoming appraised by the masses some years later. But as for Wulf as a solo act, nothing quite stood out as an entire “moment” for this next era of underground hip-hop on his end until Blood Shore Season 1 cemented this fact in full.

By 2013, he had already done enough with the help of his equally-prolific contemporaries within his very own HollowSquad collective along with others adjacent to them; it truly was not until the summer of 2014 came around where the grander music landscape began to fully realize his incredibly ideal status as a solo act through and through with this release and the ones that came to follow.

But this 9-track long masterpiece was, without question, the most optimal way to start things off in this light for the young superstar. Practically every single aspect that came to define this era was on full display with each of these songs, with the album never taking a single break on its quest to communicate these facets in such a vivid manner.

Even at the earliest moments of the album’s opener “No One Is Safe,” the solemnly plucked guitar riff cues the listener in as to what this project is about to bring for the rest of the time to come. Aspects as small as that riff by itself are signature enough to become what can only be described as a defining feature of this era, but if that wasn’t enough to solidify this fact, than Wulf’s understated, yet grooving flow will certainly do just that.

His mic work here is unprecedented in its own right given his outstanding talents as an MC -- in which he has come to display on nearly every single release in his discography and beyond. But this album in particular truly felt like his earliest sign of coming into his own as a vocal performer, with no sense of hesitation in his delivery at all. Everything here is direct, straight-to-the-point, and comprehensive in this light, which helped to lay the groundwork for the most ideal way to perform in this style. Those that would follow his influence in this manner looked nowhere else but this album first in emulating this approach.

That subdued vocal delivery stood hand-in-hand with the far most intense and loud tracks on the project like “Kill the Unknown” and “Public Announcement,” but these two tracks were the only instances of Wulf turning the dial up beyond his atypical relaxed and confident demeanor. Even still, these two offerings work to keep the album from being in any way “one-dimensional” or the least bit boring as a result.

Beyond what sticks out sonically here is the influence this album carries from a compositional standpoint. Not only did Wulf set the bar from a vocal perspective given his influential and perfected delivery, but he also drove home what would become the next wave of production in this era from a variety of perspectives. When the album wasn’t doing all it could to saturate itself in the essence of simple, ominous instrumentals that do nothing else but provide the perfect backdrop for he himself to embellish on with tracks like “East Memphis Maniac” and “Wulf Wood,” it was instead entertaining in a far more resounding manner beat-wise with the video-game sampling of “I Say High and Bye” and the aforementioned “Public Announcement.”

All of these aforementioned facets set the absolute most baseline status possible for what would soon end up becoming one of the most storied and influential periods in hip-hop history, underground or otherwise. Though Wulf was not alone in accomplishing essentially the same things as he did with this project in particular, no one did so in such an unabashed and straight-up manner as him. But this album - despite its essential status - is just one piece to an even more resounding puzzle that he was beginning to put together at this time, which just speaks volumes to who he was at the time, and what he’s known for in full today.

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