Beats – July 2009
July 19, 2009 § Leave a comment
Published: Music Australia Guide #67, July 2009.
Beats with Dan Rule
The Ecstatic is an elusive beast. But what at first seems a contrary clutch of tracks turns out to be Brooklyn rapper-turned-actor Mos Def’s strongest and most sophisticated statement since legendary late 90s joints Black Star (with Talib Kweli) and Black on Both Sides. The Ecstatic may be loose, but it’s precisely this unhinged sensibility that makes it so magnetic. Drawing on the wonky exotica of Madlib, OhNo, Preservation and Dilla – plus verses from Kweli and the wonderful Georgia Ann Muldrow – this is a record that grows, expands and ultimately crystallises with each listen. The raw, liquid funk of Pretty Dancer is one of his finest moments.
Fish Outta Water
Chali 2na’s debut solo album has been a long time coming. The Jurassic 5 and Ozomatli icon has been plying his subterranean baritone flow to some of hip hop’s stronger moments for 15 years now. Fish Outta Water is a typically seamless affair from 2na, as he unfurls a reflective string of narratives over slick, bass-driven beats (thanks to Jake One and hit-maker Scott Storch). There are plenty of fine moments. Comin’ Thru is a classic, organic J5-styled jam, while Don’t Stop floats over a stunning hook. But this all feels a little polished and contained. 2na has crafted a bunch of likeable, electric grooves, but Fish Outta Water never quite feels definitive.
To label Chamber Music an album is a bit of a stretch. Only eight of these tracks are full songs, while the remainder of the disc comprises a bunch of esoteric RZA spoken word pieces. That said, the new songs – rendered by RZA and Brooklyn live soul ensemble The Revelations – are something worth waiting for. Pairing Wu rappers with a roster of hardcore, 90s-era New York MCs, Chamber Music is a return to the crew’s golden era. Inspectah Deck, Sadat X and U-God explode over the stabbing brass of Sound the Horns, while the lurking Ill Figures (featuring Raekwon, M.O.P. and tearing verse from Kool G Rap) is as potent and understated as anything the Clan have done.
Guns Don’t Kill People… Lazers Do
Responsible for some of the most hyped beat production of recent years – think MIA and Santigold – Diplo and Switch could release a spinning turd and the hipster press would swear it doesn’t stink. Luckily, we’ve avoided such a scenario with Guns Don’t Kill People…, the pair’s debut outing as a collaborative unit. It’s not the classic it purports to be, but this mutated dancehall record does a lot right. Recorded at Bob Marley’s Tuff Gong studios, it takes some of the genre’s young stars and mashes them into a paste of scattershot rhythms, dub step frequencies and bizarre auto-tune weirdness. An exhilarating but largely inconsequential listen.
Kanye West & Malik Yusef
G.O.O.D. Morning, G.O.O.D. Night
There’s a certain danger in artists running their own labels, especially when the artist in question is Kanye West. Outside curatorial direction can be blessing; without it, bloated, self-adoring concept records like G.O.O.D. Morning, G.O.O.D. Night make it past post-production. Employing hip hop poet Malik Yusef, West delivers 30 tracks and two discs of cheesy RnB production, ridiculously auto-tuned vocal hooks and an unfocussed rabble of guests. KRS-1 rules the strident My People, but that’s about where the joy ends. As for Yusef’s ‘poetry’: “You are so beautiful, I could have bought you as a gift to roses,” he deadpans on Mean to Say. Says it all really.