Showing posts with label hip hop. Show all posts
Showing posts with label hip hop. Show all posts

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Handsomeboy Technique - Adelie Land (2005)

I hear the drummer strike the sky. I hear the drummer strike the sky!

   ... So naturally, as a consequence of becoming enraptured by Shibuya-kei and J-Pop over ten years ago, I thought it prudent to see what had become of Japan's alternative hip hop produce since everyone's favourite abstruse-trivia-wielding-and-limited-edition-promotional-toys-branding, abstract instrumental hip hop label Mo' Wax first enticed me with it in 1997. Finding the very moment where Japanese hip hop very much became something worth taking seriously (and to much surprise, that moment actually occurred before the end of the 1980s),  James Lavelle's infamous concern issued a beautifully sturdy and artfully rendered boxset of over 40 songs released by Major Force, an exuberant imprint with a fine niche in broken English rap, deeply technical sensibilities, sample-seeking nous to rival their American counterparts and a particular attention to composition that broadened the compilation's appeal amongst demographics that could not easily stomach mangled hip hop slang in slightly off-putting vocal timbres

   8 years following my first experience with "Dope up cyber-rap from Tokyo" brought time wasted with DJs like Halfby and wee papa girl rappers like Halcali - a mainstream-breaking duo not much unlike their Major Force XX chromosome MC forebears The Orchids - but for all their talent, none were as adept at the indelibly memorable, 1970s-impelled party record as the one they called Handsomeboy Technique. Probably a disco biscuits-thing

   Adelie Land comfortably rests in the cut-and-paste party music canon that bursts with luminaries such as Steinski, The Dust Brothers, Coldcut and other DJ-producers for whom the 1980s was a testing ground for musical domination, though the beatific sequences, jaunty 1970s radio polish and heady psychedelic thread that distinguish the record are more in thrall to the itinerant beauty and density of The Avalanches' Since I Left You. Be that as it may, Yoshitaka Morino's debut LP is light on complexity and motors along on repetition, but it also simply gorges on effusiveness and what some particularly enthusiastic dancers and afficionados like to refer to as "the funk." And had this album a wider reach beyond its native Japan, many a breakdancing competition sequence could have been choreographed to the likes of the 'Shake Your Body (Down to the Ground)'-sampling 'Miami Radio Flash' or the cheery, vintage rap of 'Season of Young Mouss,' whose childish go-go delights also mark Handsomeboy Technique as a potent contemporary of that more ramshackle and less rewarding concern, The Go! Team

   But in taking cues from his forebears to craft a wider scope, Morino successfully taps not only into the celebratory, but the wistful sides of nostalgia that can make it a more compelling aural aesthetic. The soulful 'Quiet Place' is one contemplative mood shy of a megrim, with bursts of strings and keys that apparate like primary colours in a paintball contest. This is also felt in the lone piano opening of 'Adelie Coast Waltz' (practically a direct reference to the exceedingly similar 'Two Hearts in 3/4 Time' of Since I Left You) through to the sweep of its twee disco romanticism that sounds much like the end of a beautiful "something" should, whilst my favourite cut, ''8000 Laurels,' combines the exuberant patter of a motoring hip hop break and a beatbox with a hooky tempest of turntable swerves, minor key choral vocals and orchestral grandeur gone pop, thanks to a particularly indelible keyboard line. With such a percolating emotional reach, it is no wonder that the closing 'Your Blessings' emphasises - thought not overwhelmingly so - the celebratory approach to end the proceedings, but cannily, it chooses the joy-in-living sonics and sentiments of Freda Payne's 'Cherish What is Dear To You' or the Motown sound (or rather a sample of The Cake's Spector-esque 'Baby That's Me') over simple, hedonistic joy. And that, to me, is always a tune worth stepping out to


Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Quannum feat. Lyrics Born & The Poets of Rhythm - 'I Changed My Mind' (DJ Spinna Mix, 1999)

   The funniest thing about my connection to this song is my preference for not one, but two of its remixes over the original. However, the Andy Votel version, which is a mildly psychedelic embellishment of the original with a hint of Kraut, is unavailable on YouTube. That doesn't matter for this purpose; this version is a punchier re-envisioning that just so happens to be the best iteration to dance to

   I know nothing about relationships. I do know that the funky fresh fellow who calls himself Lyrics Born has been one of my favourite MCs; a gravelly sing-song voice and prolix, complex lyrical capabilities make for the strangest bedfellows, yet an idiosyncratic warmth and charisma sit at the heart of his displays. He has no need of being a technically accomplished singer - one could not initially imagine his raspy tones lending themselves easily to many sonic palettes, the blues aside - and this is still as brilliant an oddball funk-pop song as 1999 was capable of producing in an era where such things possessed prepotent clout on radio and in memories (this being the year of 'Steal My Sunshine' and Midnite Vultures. Hell of a year, make no mistake)

   This is also one of the best confections to bear DJ Spinna's name; no small feat for a fluid producer with a protean feeling for hip hop, soul, disco, house and all the moods therein. Hardly a stranger to retro-inflected sounds, he creates a mini-history of around 30 years of black music in over 5 minutes, threading in old soul, a tougher funk aesthetic than that of the source material, euphorically energetic scratching and, for a technical flourish, he even structures the kind of anticipation-building breakdown more commonly associated with club sounds as if it was the most obvious and necessary of things

   In essence, he knows where his roots come from. And more deliciously, he always seemed to know exactly how to deploy them. There's no explanation for the deft use of that bell in 'I Changed My Mind' other than this rather plain one: some people are simply born with verve

Monday, 2 May 2011

Beastie Boys - 'Make Some Noise' (Cornelius Remix, 2011)

All I can say is, they have all made me a very happy man today. Given the influence the middle-period Beasties had on Cornelius's middle-period 69/96 album, this is a more natural pairing than one may initially be led to assume

Maestro? Some noise, please:

Monday, 15 November 2010

Bubba Sparxxx - Deliverance (2003)

 I left off of mama's with my thumb in the wind
The leaves on the ground, winter's comin' again
Solid on the surface as I crumble within
But legends are made out of vulnerable men
So on the brink of death I still manage livin' life
'Cause so rarely in this world are these chances given twice
I indeed sold my soul, without glancing at the price
No instructions when I was handed this device
But with what I did get, I was more than generous
Put others over self on several instances
But I'm back on my feet without a hint of bitterness
And one way or another I shall have deliverance
So I say

   Another review that I wrote six years ago focused on the widely underappreciated sophomore cut from Southern boy and Timbaland alum, Bubba Sparxxx

   In 2003, Timbaland was perceived to have begun a decline in his creative and commercial prowess that would last until his recruitment of Nate 'Danja' Hills and their highly populist and propulsive creations for Nelly Furtado and Justin Timberlake in 2006. In truth, Timothy Moseley was as restlessly inventive as in previous years - when not mixing the clip-clops of horses with flamenco and updating  doo wop swing for an almost perfect r&b record that went unreleased - Simple Girl by Kiley Dean - he was interpolating and sampling recent hits into a country-slanted hip hop album that was as offbeat and contemplative as any Lee Hazlewood number 

   His MC friend wasn't half bad either:

    In which the best known of Timbaland's roster of underrated protégés hits back against the haters, the shamers and those who'd rather forget he ever existed. The essence of the album is Bubba's on-record character, more roundly developed and emotionally invested in than the previous record, with music and beats to match from Tim (with a little bit of Organized Noize to garnish). Importantly, Bubba's way with a rhyme and a microphone carry equal weight with Tim's surprising yet totally sensible bluegrass funk, country crunk, chase scene torch songs and ever excellent ass-shakers (Tim's diminished presence on the second half prevents this from being 2003's perfect hip hop album, but when on point, he's ever the hard act to follow - how the hell is 'Warrant' so confidently funky, mysterious and addictive when it's got barely no beats to speak of?)
   He's got a convincingly guilty conscience on 'She Tried', acts the good time party boy fool on 'Hootenanny' and the ultra-catchy top 10 single that never was, 'Comin' Round' (fiddles! synths! squealing tyres!), and he is straight up convincing about the New South signifier. I believe in Bubba when he's evoking a hard past that may or may not have been on 'Nowhere', because he's mastered the art of convincing soul-bearing on record. And when 'Nowhere', with it's last line of 'If I'm nowhere/let that nowhere/be nowhere near a worry' and the equally underrated Kiley Dean leading a lovely chorus of 'Cry Me A River' (what's done is done, eh, Bubba?), concludes its 5 mins plus of pure symphonic hip hop beauty, Bubba tells us there's nothing he can't Overcome and I hope he's right. Sooner or later, he deserves to have his Deliverance
Recommended tracks: Comin' Round, Nowhere, Warrant

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Cut Down

   Perhaps a compounding factor in my reaction to the sad event of ex-Gang Starr rapper Guru's death is that he passed on whilst still hugging his grudge against his former partner, hip hop creative legend DJ Premier

   There's a natural disappointment to seeing such fertile partnerships dissolve into acrimonious ruin; nevertheless, everything has its time and Gang Starr certainly had theirs. Premier's prolific approach to furnishing artists with his output will certainly fly the group's flag for time to come, whether indirectly or not

   There is a hint of artistic ruin to Guru's end, unfortunately - the alleged amount of control over his affairs that was entrusted to MC Solar has more than a tinge of addle-minded desperation that also suggests some paranoia. I don't like to speculate on the personal circumstances of the newly dead, however

   Rhyming skills are in a dearth of supply today; hip hop is assuredly lesser without his capabilities. Find peace, fellow; we'll always have Jazzmatazz

Sunday, 15 March 2009

Live ReView: Q-Tip Rocks The Roundhouse

or, "My Failed Career in Concert Photography"

   Whilst I feel that one can't always put a price on seeing their heroes take the stage, it speaks oh-so-highly of my own awareness that I paid a tout's fare to get to see A Tribe Called Quest's golden voice live because I didn't hear about the gig until the last minute. And just to reinforce the severity of my error, eBay, Gumtree and Seatwave had absolutely nothing to get me up to speed. I do think you can put a price on talent, but thankfully, this was a fee I'll happily live with. Because, quite simple and plain, Q-Tip put on the best hip hop live show I've seen in 5 years

   The Camden Roundhouse is the perfect setting for a large scale indoor performance - a little reminiscent of the Globe. Since my friends and I weren't in the market for most of the DJs that heralded the first London performance in around 14 years for the world's most charismatic rapper, we only spent half an hour rumpshaking to the best that 90's hip hop had to offer; the songs that we rapped along to in our bedrooms and our cars and our showers, the anthems that made fans and DJs and dancers and musicians out of so many, the classics that earned the iconic Parental Advisory label one hundred times over. And their presence not only underscored one key component of Q-Tip's appeal - rarely bettered party hip hop - but imbued nostalgic joy in the faithful. So when the man finally came on, the head nodding in the crowd was at whiplash levels and not about to settle down

   Tip worked the crowd in approximately 0.5 seconds, even before the obligatory "What's up, London?" introductions and the hands-in-the-air incitations. With the kind of charm that only gets better with age, his brand of charisma - a rare blend of worldly wisdom, youthful exuberance and the insight and Trust-Me appeal that only President Obama (sampled in speech before Tip took the stage) and few others share - had the attending singing along to the new jams of latest LP The Renaissance - 'Move' (sampling one of the Jackson 5's greatest moments, 'Dancing Machine'), a vastly expanded version of 'You', 'Gettin' Up' and the anthemic finale 'Life Is Better', for which he disappeared into the crowd to rhyme - as they did to the A Tribe Called Quest classics that prompted the sellout ticket sales. Although the obvious classic 'Can I Kick It?' failed to appear, the back catalogue was (appropriately for its performer) thoughtfully utilised to mesh best with the soul exhortations of the new record, and as such, most of the classics were from Tribe's defining 1993 record, Midnight Marauders. 'Award Tour' (the night's largest jumping moment), 'Electric Relaxation', 'Sucka Nigga' were the sorts of songs we'd all come to hear and see, but there were outings for other seminal tracks to keep us satisfied

   Perhaps aware that he couldn't omit two signature songs, 'Bonita Applebum' appeared with an intro humourously interpolated from The Brady Bunch themesong, as did early solo hit 'Vivrant Thing', along with a few from my favourite Tribe record, The Low End Theory - 'Check The Rhime' and 'Scenario', still bringing dancefloors to their collective knees. And the band earned every single kudos and dollar they were given to back up their leader. The rapport Q-Tip shared with its members was reminiscent of so many stars of other genres who know that live renderings of their music is worthless without the contributions of other talent, and it was a joy to see him entice his bassist into a jam and dance atop the speakers as if in celebration of their energy and skill

   There's absolutely nothing abstract about the man's magnetism - this is the MC whose half assed freestyle led to one of the Beastie Boys's best singles after all - but if he was to leave it another 14 years... I don't think it would dent his appeal at all. And he'd have the time to work on his singing