Bob Vylan rouse and stoke the fires of a future revolution with all the humility and rage in the world on this catchy punk rap opus.

Release date: April 5, 2024 | Ghost Theatre | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | Bandcamp

Ever since I heard Bob Vylan I knew I’d have to make time to talk about them at some point here. I discovered them through their last album, Bob Vylan Presents The Price Of Life, during a time in 2022 where I was unable to review it. So I waited – surely they’d drop a new project, right? The existence of this article is proof enough I suppose.

Originally put off by their name – it sounded like something an edgy white American rapper who thinks rapping fast is the pinnacle of musical skill would name themself – I really, really took to them (and assuaged any prejudice) with their track “Wicked & Bad” which still goes just as hard as it did two years ago. The duo’s punk rap energy was palpable and infectious – mixing in some light grime influence (they are from England after all) and a community-first, anti-authoritarian political ethos much like my own, I was absolutely enamored with them. With Humble As The Sun, the band mature a bit more without losing the bite their music and message had.

Made up of vocalist/guitarist Bobby Vylan and drummer/producer Bobbie Vylan, they both make Humble As The Sun a tour de force for fans of both rock and rap. Different than a Paris Texas or a Rage Against The Machine, Bob Vylan still seem laser-focused on providing an experience that’s equally catchy and cathartic like those other bands and more. It’s a great mixture too – not full-blown depending on traditional rock band instrumentation like a nu metal outfit, but also much more than rap production with some guitars interlaced. It’s the heart of their act, even if the album does start with a more soulful, very much not rock title track that allows Bobby to reflect on his life and contextualize the music to come. Featuring singer Jerub, it’s a celebratory ‘started from the bottom’ affair with an angelic refrain at the end that says ‘shine Black man, shine‘.

Though either member of Bob Vylan keep from getting too personal in any aspect to duck the Western world’s surveilling ways, you can tell this album comes from a deep place where identity is rooted, experience is lived, and sprouting from it all is a flourishing tree wishing to reach out to their community in a bid for support and comfort. This is where their strengths really start to show. Take a listen to “GYAG (Get Yourself A Gun)” which espouses the rage at systemic oppression and economic hardship, particularly at police and landlords content with being scumbag slumlords (there’s a personal story behind this – read about it on The Guardian). I love the lines ‘Cold town, block’s burnin’ up/Stressed out ’cause man don’t earn enough/Police turned thieves and burglars/Tryna steal our lives and murder us‘, but it’s the hook that really sets shit off: ‘It’s cold out here and the games being played ain’t fun/Landlord just raised your rent, better get yourself a gun‘.

A similar chord is struck with “Makes Me Violent” that sends up the shit-ass government and their uncaring nature toward the poor working class and the status quo brainwashing they enact on people to keep us all fighting and arguing instead of rolling guillotines to their doorstep. This one is more melodic and reserved with a sweet hook, but both aforementioned tracks have bold instrumentation to trojan horse the message into your mind like any good punk song does. Then there’s a song like “Hunger Games” which should feel and sound familiar to those who’ve seen, read, or have any cursory familiarity with the fiction story of the same name. It, maybe satirically though it’s too close to reality to tell, gamifies our survival with charismatic fervor befitting of a prime time TV game show host – ‘All right, all right!/What will you win yourself tonight?/Spin the wheel for the chance of a hot meal‘. There’s a reference to The Offspring that I love as a fan of their earlier stuff (‘The kids aren’t all right/We need a way to feed our offspring‘). The riff on the hook is one of the catchiest as well, and I love how the end strips the track down for some spoken word affirmations that really speak to the audience directly, then swerves into a hard-bodied club banger beat to lighten the mood.

As someone who is wildly critical and an unabated hater of modern men’s alpha lifestyle and ‘rights’ movements, I enjoy “He’s a Man” for the takedown it is of those very things. There’s lyrics referencing everything we’ve heard dismissed as locker room talk or simply boys being boys in the last decade along with hyper-patriotism and dissolution with societal progress, and the tantrums they throw when their worldview or privilege is even mildly challenged, usually indirectly. The best part is the end of the bridge where the music drops off for Bobby to embody the man he’s talking about to say, ‘the G-spot don’t exist, mate, that’s just feminist propaganda‘. The music is as boisterous as those types that value actual rapists’ advice over basic empathy and decency, but definitely not as vacuous or unsettling – it’s a fun one, more a checklist for how not to act while the rest of the album sets better examples.

And that’s kind of the whole crux of Humble As The Sun. Though confidence is an important aspect of Bob Vylan in order to combat the insecurities that ground your dreams and talents, not to mention rap and punk music as a whole, there’s a neat throughline of recognizing yourself as the singular being you are and where you came from. Though the sun may be one of the most powerful things we’ll ever know in this life, it is humble in its routine and existence. We know through science and curiosity that the sun is one of many, many, many stars like it in the galaxy, tons of which out there dwarf our own. But it serves its purpose, it acts on its existence, and while it is without a conscience, it’s part of a grand ecosystem that literally gives (and takes) life, just as we can and do. So really, you can read the title as a bit of a misnomer or misdirection depending on what you believe – are you as big as the sun as we relate to it, or are you as small as the sun as it relates to the greater known galaxy?

Bob Vylan give a lot to think on. Even as they make their own ethics and beliefs crystal clear, they don’t purport to know everything or seek to beat you into submission under their ideals. Ultimately, I think there’s a lot some people can take from their music – fight and fight hard, care for one another and lead with empathy, don’t simp for the government or people richer than God that want you dead or enslaved. Regardless of whether you choose to take the lessons from the music, it sounds great. Humble As The Sun is simply catchier and tighter than previous work, more realized and compact for optimal impact and fun, because that’s another important aspect for the duo doing this. It’s not worth doing if it’s not fun and for yourself more than it is for others to enjoy, that’s just a bonus. For this fan, I think it makes for some of the most genuine and affecting music out there, and I’ll share it with anyone open-minded enough to hear it out.

Band photo by Ki Price

David Rodriguez

David Rodriguez

"I came up and so could you, and fuck the boys in blue" - RMR

Leave a Reply