Monday, July 23, 2007

Incoming Hip Hop

With a glut of fine hip hop set to drop over the next couple of months, including albums from major players Common and Talib Kweli as well as more underground names like Oh No, here’s three that we’ve already managed to get our hands on.

Oh No – Dr. No’s Oxperiment (Stones Throw)
Released August 06

Like Oh No’s previous album “Exodus Into Unheard Rhymes” - built entirely from samples of music by “Hair” producer Galt MacDermot - this collection of 28 instrumental tracks comes with a new sampling conceit. This time the Oxnard, California producer and younger brother of Madlib has restricted himself to the lurid grooves of label manager Egon’s collection of Turkish and Middle Eastern psych and Italian prog. The result is the label’s most inspired instrumental offering since Dilla’s “Donuts”. But where that album celebrated those treasured and well-worn soul gems from Dilla’s childhood, “Dr No’s Oxperiment” revels in the extreme otherness of its sources, crafting the heaviest of beats out of the fuzz psych of 70s artists like Selda and mining incredible swing from the music’s non-western scales.

Talib Kweli – “Ear Drum” (Blacksmith Music / Warners)
Released September 3

Up until track 10 this is sounding like Kweli’s most rewarding effort since his true solo debut, 2002’s “Quality”. Rather than crowbarring smart rhymes into clumsy metre, he sounds on point, his flow natural and relaxed. He’s kept a fairly tight control on the contributions from his excellent production line-up, including Madlib, Kanye West, Just Blaze and Pete Rock. Even - current rent-a-hip-hop-hitmaker to any major label MC looking for a juicy crossover hit - has acquitted himself acceptably on the Jean Grae-featuring, “Say Something”. It’s a decent enough example of the typical 2007 major label hip hop album made by committee, with most of the right people sitting on the board. Why then does it labour its way on through to 16 tracks, with all the weakest material programmed into the record’s final 30 minutes? It’s a tired trick this scattergun programming and it falls wide of its intention to score mass appeal, only leaving the artist looking woefully unfocussed.

Cadence Weapon – Breaking Kayfabe (Big Dada)
Released September 24

Rollie Pemberton is the 21-year-old Canadian MC, producer and Pitchfork journalist who took time out of writing his popular Razorblade Runner blog to refix artists like Lady Sovereign and DFA 1979 and then release this Canadian debut back in 2005. Finally, the album gets a UK issue courtesy of the persistently forward-thinking Big Dada label where it finds a niche somewhere between the jarring leftfield efforts of signings like NMS and the electro-party bass of Spank Rock. The thrillingly claustrophobic “Grim Fandango” and “Black Hand” provide highlights and Pemberton proves a brilliant wordsmith and dextrous MC, when he’s not drowning his vocal in screaming, overdriven synth.


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