Thursday, April 28, 2005
Surrounded by Silence | Warp Records
Prefuse 73 (aka Scott Herren) has been quietly positioning himself to become the next DJ savior—while his music is more noise-driven than Shadow or RJD2, his samples are always fresh, and his arrangements constantly re-innovative. With Surrounded by Silence, Herren alternates his gangsta-flavored bangers with adventurous sonic interludes, and the whole thing gets augmented by a supporting cast of quirky singers and songwriters, underground producers, inventive musicians, and members of the Wu Tang Clan.
Genre-mashing golden moments abound: Ghostface spitting his 16 bars of semi-conventional hardcore raps, seemingly unbothered by the spooky unmelodic string backing track on the lead single “Hideyaface”; Tyondai Braxton’s mumbling humming as the melody for “Mantra Two”; even the pleasantly typical hip-hop bounce of “Sabbatical with Options” (featuring Aesop Rock) kicked off by country crooning. Somehow, it all comes out magically.
Call it noise, or an undeniable work of genius; either way, it’s clear that Prefuse 73 uses his turntables to full effect. Transcending each and every genre (and redefining the boundaries of the DJ album), Surrounded by Silence takes us on a musical journey that’s exhausting to fully comprehend.
Goldplated Straitjackets | Grad School Music
Goldplated Straitjackets, the solo debut from Santa Cruz rap outfit Lost and Found Generation’s Coley Cole, is an impressive effort, crowned by Coley’s most obvious talent: his impressive rapid-fire verbal barrage; a multi-syllabic, percussively melodic onslaught. He goes triple time over the quarter note beat of “Awesome,” and when he hits the groove, you can’t help but get caught up in the flow. Yet if there’s one complaint about the album, it’s that Coley kicks his Eminem sneer into overdrive far too often; on record, he’s most effective when he slows down his flow a bit. Tracks like “Goldplated Warriors” and “Patience Now Children” are clear and comprehensible, but at other times, he’s left trying to catch the beat, spitting wildly on “We Don’t Know (Moving On).”
Handling most of the production as well, Coley keeps things heavy and dark, well suited for his menacing spit. On tracks where everything comes together perfectly, most notably on “The Eternal Curse (Money)” featuring members of his LFG crew, Coley’s talent is clear—there’s plenty of heat coming from this Bay Area.
1988 | Rhymesayers
Where were you in ’88? Blueprint, one half of Soul Position (with RJD2) and frontman for Weightless, takes us back to that revered year in hip-hop, even if most hip-hoppers these days were never there. Old school’s the name of this game and right off the bat, Blueprint provides us with the raw, fat samples of yesteryear, complete with an old-style lip-flapping beatbox, and a greeting straight from KRS-One and the Boogie Down.
1988 is a lesson in hip-hop, both historically and stylistically. Some tracks come as obvious homages, complete with name-dropping (“Big Girls Need Love Too” ends with Humpty’s timeless sample “Hey yo fat girl…”), while other influences are subtler (“Inner-City-Native-Son” offers a darker, updated version of Slick Rick’s ’88 classic “Children’s Story”). Tracks like “Boombox” and “Tramp” bring to mind the simpler, honky sample loops of old-school DJ’s, while “Lo-Fi Funk” and “Fresh” use those same inventive values to give a harsh critique of hip-hop today. Blueprint’s impeccable rhymes ring clear throughout it all; there’s no denying the cleverness of his impressive, old-fashioned MCing.