YaHeard? Binary Star

Thursday, September 18th, 2008 | Reviews
YaHeard? Binary Star

Back in the early years of high school I wasn’t much of a hip hop fan, bar the Snoop Dogg and Ice T cassettes i had dubbed off my friends older brothers. But after being introduced to the likes of Jurassic 5, Dilated Peoples and Gangstarr, my interest grew. Enjoying the underground side of things, I sought more artists like these and managed to stumble across something that well and truly tipped the scales for me, one of the dopest underground albums of all time; ‘Masters of the Universe’, released in 2000 by Binary Star. Jam packed with clever metaphors, punchlines and rhymes that need to be studied, this album is a shining representation of what underground hip hop is. Uh.. hang on, what underground hip hop used to be, I should say; they don’t make ‘em like this anymore.

After meeting in prison, MC’s Senim Silla and OneManArmy (a.k.a OneBeLo) recorded and independently released their debut album, Waterworld. Only about 1000 copies were pressed and distributed in 1999, and in the following year it was remixed, remastered, and re-released, as ‘Masters of the Universe’. Despite only selling 20,000 copies, the album received wide acclaim and would be high on the list of any respectable underground hip hop fan. Unfortunately the two split after this was released, citing creative differences, and have never reformed. However, both artists have released solo material in recent years (Senim Silla – The Name, The Motto, The Outcome, OneBeLo – S.O.N.O.G.R.A.M) and feature on each others albums.

Although the strength of this album lies in its MC’s, the beat on the first track, “Reality Check”, is mesmerising. Strings blast out of the speakers followed by a piano loop that builds with an ominous presence, before it fades and lets the beat rock just long enough for them to flip it, laying down lush piano and harps with OneManArmy unleashing his first verse. And this verse is a great reflection of what the rest of the album offers; OneManArmy dropping countless witty punchlines and rhymes that will have you nodding your head (”Rodney King ain’t ever felt a beat like this”, “I’m bad to the bone but X-ray’s can’t even see this”). “Conquistadors” is up next with its simple but effective bassline and cracking snare. The duo exchange metaphors and battle raps enthusiastically, Senim Sillia setting the tone from the first lines with “Feel the rhapsody, fill this joint to capacity, Senim grab mics with pitbull tenacity”. He keeps the ball rollin with the first of his solo tracks on the album, “Slang Blade”, where he rips it for two and half minutes straight without a hook over one of the best beats on the album

The two MC’s have fun on “Binary Shuffle”, bouncing along over a pretty simple bouncing beat with them chanting;

“Do you want to hear about the money we got? (oh no!)
Talk about the people we shot? (oh no!)
Bragg on the clothes we wear? (oh no!)
Do you think what we saying’ is fair? (oh yea!)
Do my crew rock the mic for days? (oh yea!)
Do my crew keep it live on stage? (oh yea!)
Do Binary Star got the flow? (oh yea!)
Don’t these wack emcees got to go? (oh yea!)”

A track that starts off like that is always going to appeal to me, and its especially refreshing listening to it in this current hip hop environment. “Fellowship” sees Athletic Mic League and Decompoze “rock heads like Mt Rushmore” with the dynamic duo, in another head nodding beat with a funky bassline. Decompoze and Senim Silla shine on this track, both ripping their verses to shreds. The title track, “Masters of the Universe”, sees the duo rapping together as “The Two-Headed Dragon”, weaving in and out of each others rhymes at a quick pace. Yet another track that is full of memorable lyrics, you’ll need to listen to it several times before get it all.

One of my personal favourites is “Indy 500″, which only actually features Decompoze. This track is a salute to the underground, where Decompoze rhymes about making it big but staying independent and true to why you’re making your music.

“All we need is beats and rhymes to go and spark it,
As long as we got the underground yo, we got a market,
I don’t need a major to tell me how to run it,
cause my goal’s to win the Indy 500″

The track starts off with a sample from a movie that really sets the tone, before Decompoze enters, just speaking about the industry at first, until a gritty beat drops over a superbly mellow piano loop. Easily one of the best tracks of the album.

“Honest Expression” has Silla and OneManArmy deliver a dope commentary on keeping it real as an underground hip hop artist and staying true to the artform instead of telling lies just to sell records. The track starts with a fantasticly appropriate martial arts movie sample about “Honestly expressing yourself”, before the two MC’s come in together and lay down some of the most refreshing rhymes of the album:

Senim Silla:

“Dig – I’ma put it on the table,
I ain’t a thug nigga and playa, I ain’t playful,
I’m just Senim Silla, a man without label,
Standin’ on my own two just tryin’ to stay stable,
Speakin’ what I know to only what I’m able”


“I ain’t hardcore, I don’t pack a 9 millimeter,
Most of y’all gangster rappers ain’t hardcore neither,
Whoever get mad then I’m talkin ’bout you,
Claim you fear no man but never walk without crew”

I love hearing tracks like this, hip hop artists making hip hop for the right reasons. And doing so with a precision and skill that sees them easily capable of mocking those who are abusing the art form for its payout.

I’ve listened to many dope hip hop albums over the years, but I consistently struggle to find music that can match up to this. I could write all day about each and every song, as they are all pretty damn good, and all feature the trademark metaphor-heavy rhyme-style that will have you rewinding to catch lyrics often. Even after eight years in my possession, it still rates high on my playlists. OneManArmy and Senim Silla have an amazing chemistry, and through their creative wordplay and raw honesty they have created a true underground hip hop classic.

Anyway, times up.

Do hip hop a favour, don’t sleep on this if you haven’t heard it.

You can catch Binary Star at:


or at OneManArmy’s record label




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3 Comments to YaHeard? Binary Star

September 18, 2008

‘Masters of the Universe’ is definitely in my top ten albums too. Their track ‘Glen Close’ summed it up for me “When I shoot a rhyme I make you shudder”

October 6, 2008

Definately agreed. Hard to match in thought, content, complexity, style, ablity, flow…they got most bases well covered.
I was tryin to figure out if the guitar sounding loop for “Honest Expression” was a sample from somewhere…and as to your comment about how you have to study them, I’m using Honest expression for my HSC english exam. Hope the markers understand that not all rap is the same.

Alisa Mcmahon
January 9, 2009

good luck

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