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In STL GLD’s view, there’s nothing normal about ‘The New Normal’

From left: Christopher Talken, Moe Pope, The Arcitype, and Jonathan Ulman of STL GLD.
From left: Christopher Talken, Moe Pope, The Arcitype, and Jonathan Ulman of STL GLD.Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff

CAMBRIDGE — In its own way, Trump’s America has been good for STL GLD.

Call it a target-rich environment for the Boston hip-hop group’s frontman, Moe Pope.

With the group’s new album, “The New Normal,” due out Friday, the Roxbury-raised emcee hits his MAGA-country marks. In the world Pope details, the devil exists, as do fake facts. Flint, Mich., is under siege, and Nazis occupy the White House. Feelings of abandonment lead to looking for love in selfies, a narcissism that raises the specter of addiction. And yes, there is impeachment speculation among other unprintable critiques of the president. Pope may have found the record’s raison d’etre early in the second track, “The New Normal Part 1” when he observes, “Life is pretty awful.”

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Chock-full of moody, at times haunting, beats, and lyricism that is at its best when it’s acerbic, the 13 tracks do not constitute what you would call a club record for 2019. It’s more of a polemic.

Pope, seated in a North Cambridge recording studio with the rest of the group earlier this month, insisted that he actively looks for reasons to smile. It can be, he concedes, a struggle some days.

“We’re trying to take the horrible and make some type of enjoyment out of it,” he says. “Because there’s nothing good happening, in my opinion.”

He immediately softens his take — a sliver of optimism, maybe?

“Or not enough good.”

The group, pronounced “Still Gold,” includes Pope, producer Janos “The Arcitype” Fulop, backup vocalist Christopher Talken, and drummer Jonathan Ulman. The band marks the release of the new album Friday with a show at Oberon in Cambridge.

“The New Normal” is their third full-length release. It follows 2017’s “Torch Song,” which received local accolades, including album of the year at the Boston Music Awards. That album found an audience and opened doors for the group.

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A small tour of Europe that included stops in the United Kingdom, France, and Germany followed “Torch Song,” as did a spot on a Boston Calling bill, and the group’s largest gig to date, a performance last summer with the Roots in Providence.

“We were discovering what we had the potential to do last time,” says Fulop. “We made this record knowing what we were capable of.”

The political and social backdrop to this album’s creation, he says, was “just really strange.”

“We literally have a reality television president, we’ve gone so far down that wormhole,” he says.

Talken described the record as the sound of “coming to grips” with what is now considered normal. “What do you do next?” he asks. “Do you just sit there and be quiet?”

Like its predecessor, “The New Normal” runs through the thornier parts of the country’s past and present.

For Pope, layers of the American grotesquerie have peeled away in recent years: videos showing police brutality against people of color, #MeToo testaments documenting pervasive sexual misconduct. With the new project, the group is trying to talk about the world as it is, he says.

“I think that a lot of people have had blinders on as to what the world really was anyway,” Pope says. The country is “starting to understand what a person of color has to deal with every time they step out of the house.”

“That gets heavy,” he says.

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Pope carries such heaviness throughout “The New Normal.” On “Ashes,” he tries to evoke the feelings of someone who is staring at a burning cross on his lawn. The daily pressures of the rat race surface on “Horrors,” where Pope laments too much division and morals gone missing. The protagonist in “Done” has friends die young, a dad in jail, and pain that is numbed with liquor.

In person, Pope is self-effacing; he is sure to mention that he is a flawed individual. On the album, there is hubris and bluster at times, but also moments of unsparing introspection. In “What They Say,” Pope articulates feelings of frustration, loneliness, never-ending problems, mistakes made, forgiveness sought, and the hope of a better life for his children.

“It’s therapy for sure,” he says.

Later, the man who wrote the lyric “Life is pretty awful” and put it on a title track to his new record is asked if he still holds on to hope.

“It’s tough, man, but tomorrow’s a new day.”

STL GLD

At Oberon, Cambridge, Feb. 1 at 9:30 p.m. Tickets $13-$25, www.americanrepertorytheater.org


Danny McDonald can be reached at daniel.mcdonald@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @Danny__McDonald.