Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Best of the Rest of 12: Hip Hop


I couldn't climb on the Kendrick Lamar bandwagon - just didn't do it for me. But I found some other intriguing sounds from the world of hip hop.

Beat Seeking Missile
Though he was only born in 1975, drummer and producer Karriem Riggins has worked with jazz legends on the order of the Milt Jackson and Oscar Peterson, as well as hip hop legends like J Dilla and Madlib. Alone Together is his first solo statement and sequences 34 sketches and loops into a head-nodding assemblage of beats sans rhymes. While he doesn't demonstrate the accretive power of DJ Shadow, Flying Lotus, or Dilla himself, it's an intriguing look into the musical mind of a master.
We Almost Found Detroit
J Dilla's tragic death in 2006 at the age of 32 left behind despondent fans and a seemingly endless trove of unreleased music. Rebirth Of Detroit takes some of those unfinished pieces and puts them together with a crop of Detroit's current MC's. Many of the beats are classic Dilla constructions but, except for Guilty Simpson and one or two others, the verses don't live up, with too many shout outs to Ma Dukes (Dilla's mother) and too much empty tough talk. Perhaps if the Dilla estate had worked with Geoff Barrow in his Quakers guise, a full on classic would have come out of the project. As it is, it's a decent collection but I hope future releases are either beats only or maybe with a single rapper who can come up to Dilla's level.
Productive Prodigy
Since his release from prison, Prodigy of Mobb Deep, has been working at a rapid clip, sometimes with partner Havoc (as on 2011's extraordinary Black Cocaine EP), but mostly on his own. Perhaps the clip has been too rapid, as the quality of his output in 2012 has been scattershot. For the fan, however, HNIC 3, H.N.I.C. 3, and The Bumpy Johnson Album all contained a measure of good tracks. The first was a mixtape that built hype for the second, which was the third official release in the series that began with his legendary first solo album, H.N.I.C. 

Perhaps the perfect version would combine tracks from both collections, as Prodigy's commercial ambitions got the best of him on the official album. However, even on crap tracks like Pretty Thug, he shows great skills, playing with the beat and lapsing into Jamaican patois. The Bumpy Johnson Album was a sonic upgrade for the tracks that he released for free via Complex Magazine in 2011, with a few new tracks added. The combination of all these releases has given me hope that his 2013 collaboration with The Alchemist, Albert Einstein, will be a return to full quality. Also one looks forward to when he and Havoc can put their bizarre and pointless (and possibly fake) feud behind them and put out another Mobb Deep album.

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