Bobby Brusberg reviewed The Hell Hole Store’s Return To The Hell Hole.
Sometimes hip-hop music doesn’t need to address societal or political issues to be powerful. I’m not sure if anyone has addressed environmental issues in their music yet. But they will. The current state of the USA is ripe for musical commentary, but sometimes we just need to jam. Looking for some shade from the gassy orange mass in charge of our well-being, I visited The Hell Hole Store. The Hell Hole Store is a duo comprised of Darko The Super and ialive, and their second album Return To The Hell Hole Store is an exceptional way to cool off. I don’t admire this album just because they’re not trying to teach me anything, I like it because it sounds great and the rhymes are unique. As a bonus, I have in my possession some artist commentary for each track, so my job is pretty much done. Skip to the bottom if you’re here for the inside scoop, but if you read my words too I’ll be very happy and forget my plot to prevent Christmas. Wait, I lost the notes. Dang. You’ve really done it this time, Bobby. How do you lose an email?
Found it! The album opens with a mellow feel-good track. “Cow Tippin’” reminisces on the nostalgic feeling of having very few responsibilities and burdens during childhood. Ignorance is bliss and there are things I miss about being a kid, but at least I can reach the top shelf now. That’s where the cashews are. In a cruel twist of fate, I now have to pay for the cashews. If the introductory track doesn’t indicate enough character to each emcee, “Green Ski Mask” provides a contrast between the aggressive Darko robbing Rite Aid, and the more docile ialive eating ice cream in his green sleeping bag. Truly two sides of the same coin.
I don’t know what’s better in “Three’s Company,” the beat or the rhymes. I’m a sucker for guitar samples, but with rhymes like “I never heard that song ‘New God Flow’/ cuz fuck Kanye West, my mom drives a RAV4 and she’s the best.” I like my mom, and I’m not really into Kanye West’s music, so I feel like the third company in this song. The fun is ruined after Darko spills the milk in “Mellow Yellow 2,” one of the more emotional songs on the album. Anyone familiar with Darko’s music knows he experiences suicidal thoughts, and ialive’s talk of existential crises doesn’t help this puddle of moo spreading on the tiles. Spilled milk is probably a menu item at the “Hell Hole Café” based on ialive’s verse detailing the café’s atmosphere. Yes, that’s ialive in the first verse as “Drool G Rap,” his post-dental Novocaine persona.
The contrast between ialive and Darko is most recognizable on “Mountain,” as both fellas describe the annoyance of life’s obstacles. Ialive expresses gratitude for what he has and offers support, while Darko, who is used to his music being misunderstood, continues to place himself above other artists because he knows he’s great. These two aren’t opposites, but their outlooks on life are interesting to examine simultaneously. In “Dying To Get Old” the two find common ground in their dislike of the all-too-common life of working a job and simply dying. We’re still young and I admit I have a mild fear of missing out on any potential talent I might possess, but maybe when I’m older I’ll find purpose in working a desk job for someone? The rub is that I might not know until it’s too late. Also, money makes people do crazy things, like buy fanny packs.
Continuing with the theme of incredible beats, “Musician Street” showcases just how effortlessly these guys do their thing. Torito makes the most of his guest verse and around this point I realized that I didn’t have any complaints about this album so far. “Jackpot” sounds like a long-neglected free-parking space in Monopoly, and just like when my brother grabs that pile of colored bills in America’s favorite cutthroat property simulator, I’m jealous of The Hell Hole Store’s inexplicable skill. Darko’s line “if you think you’re free, try going anywhere without money” is also true to Monopoly, as players have no choice in the matter when they land on a maxed-out Park Place. Your cousin will force you to stay in the hotel even if you can’t afford it, effectively ruining Thanksgiving. “No Coupons” contains a tight bass that reminds me of a dream I had where the Predator was rolling dice with some youths in my backyard, and they weren’t playing Monopoly. He called me an ugly motherfucker and then a tight bass started playing. Then I said “you’re sick” and shot him with my legally-owned dream gun that I carry in my more violent dreams. That’s enough Monopoly talk for one review.
I know what it is but I don’t recall anyone I know ever using it, but when I hear the track “Moviefone,” rappers turned actors come to mind. I also appreciate the line about sourdough and live culture. Leave it to ialive to being nice enough to include bread on this album. “You Forgot The Bread” is a solo operation by ialive, serving as an ambassador of what The Hell Hole Store is all about: Good vibes and great music. I could try to decode the meaning of “Room 123” like those straw-graspers on Room 237, but the summary below is intriguing so I would read that instead. What I will say is the beat reminds me of any 80s movie involving a kid and an alien. And ialive is in rare form as he rips somebody apart with words, I honestly don’t know who, but I wouldn’t want to be that person. The album closes with “Sorry, We’re Closed,” detailing Darko’s frustrations at a venue gone wrong. It’s a fitting end for an excellent album by some artists who don’t feel appreciated for their work by music fans. See if you can spot the DJ Cucumber Slice reference. Extremely fun fact: Bobbito was the commentator in NBA Street Vol. 2 and NBA Street V3.
Return To The Hell Hole Store is the buddy comedy of the summer. A couple of good chums sharing their fun, their moods, and their sounds with all who care to listen. The Hell Hole Store exudes the dissatisfaction many people have with working our entire life until we die, but aside from that the only theme is healthy beats and anti-cliché styles we don’t deserve. Darko and ialive are like Fred Flintstone and Barney Rubble without the dinosaurs and verbal abuse. Their chemistry is to be envied by sinners, their balance of pessimism and optimism is fresh, and I want to steal their give-and-take. The unassuming solidity of this album is what propels it into excellence. How often do you hear an album and really, and I mean really just let the whole thing play? The Hell Hole Store doesn’t preach a cure-all to Earth’s evils with this project, and it’s fine to address issues with music, but it’s also fine not to. You don’t hear this all the time anymore. The Hell Hole Store gets straight 5s on Yelp from this very satisfied customer.
Return To The Hell Hole Store released on the net June 23, 2017. It can be purchased on bandcamp from Already Dead Tapes & Records, and if you click these words I’ll take you there for free. Except—hey get back here and give me my tip! Dang. Another ride and glide. I’m gonna starve if I don’t get some money soon. Oh, well. Until next time. At least I still have my exclusive artist commentary. I’ll share it with you if you can solve my riddle. Here it goes: “Scroll.”