Gonjasufi's A Sufi & A Killer is an astonishing and genuinely
uncategorisable piece of work, and 'Sheep' is - for me - the record's
most arresting track. Gonjasufi himself is a practicing Sufi and professional Yoga teacher from San Diego, who raps and sings in an
eerie croak over bizarre beats produced by Brainfeeder alumni like
Flying Lotus and the Gaslamp Killer. 'Sheep' is perhaps his gentlest,
and certainly his most unsettling moment. The Gaslamp Killer twists and
bends an Asha Bhosle sample into a gentle, lilting acoustic background
for Gonjasufi, who softly murmurs his way through an allegory about
lions and sheep: "I wish I was a sheep, instead of a lion," he mutters,
"'cause then I wouldn't have to eat animals that are dyin'". As though
his very nature makes him a loveless predator against his will, he longs
to be different, to be "only made out of love".
Things get a bit more complicated, though; "if I was a sheep, I'd have to be quick on my feet - running away all day from a lion that's trying to eat". A downside, then, to being "made out of love"? If he ceases to be a predator, he becomes soft - weak - prey? Gonjasufi wearily goes on to observe, "have you ever seen two lions when they meet? Egos too big to greet; one ends up in the other's teeth. It wouldn't be this way if they were eating leaves." The backing is gentle, beautiful and eerie, Gonjasufi's allegorical musings about human beings and their vicious dealings with one another delivered softly and carefully.
But then there's a further twist - for the final minute of the track, the music shifts, becoming harsher, weirder, dissonant drones and wailing entering the backing track. The singer, too, suddenly shifts tack - "I'm a lion, babe," he snarls, with renewed force, "feeding off of sheep that graze off the leaves and blades - I wouldn't have it any other way." Has he changed his mind? Was he just faking us out all along? Or is his wish to be a soft, loving sheep actually the truth of the matter, and this apparent shift just an overbearing defence mechanism? Does he even know?
In truth, 'Sheep' sounds so beautifully weird that it'd probably rank around this place even if the lyrics were indecipherable nonsense. But Gonjasufi's musings on human nature, and his ambivalent conclusion, make this song an unsettling classic.