Ill Communication: Edition No. 6
Underworld Dust Funk's music is the sort of intense, heightened hip-hop that creates its own, ever so slightly weirded out vibe. This is music that you don't quite know what to make of, but are left feeling enraptured. Caz Greez and Khrist Koopa are the two Seattle rappers who comprise Underworld Dust Funk and their self-titled mixtape is their ominous opening statement. The beats are pared down and drawn out at an ultra slow pace. The economy of sound is striking. Most of the ten tracks collected are nothing more than a portentous, slightly sinister, swirl of hazy clipped beats and rhymes delivered in a languorous drawl. The lack of aggressive spitting rhymes actually adds to the eeriness of the music.
'Stay Silent' featuring Bolo Nef is an excellent example of the duo's beguiling hallucinogenic hip-hop. Equally as effective is 'Chewin Bars', which features the pair lost in a LSD influenced trip, the music's ghostly thrall prompting Greez to proclaim, "I think I lost my damn mind." While a lot of excellent hip-hop can be brutally in your face and aggressive, Underground Dust Funk excels in creating something that little bit deeper and darker.
In something of a left over from last month that was unfortunately superseded by the not inconsiderable presence of Ghostface Killah, comes Kool AD and Kass Overall who have joined forces as Kool & Kass for the supremely good mixtape Peaceful Solutions. Not everything here works but when it does, as on the hi-energy, jumped up beats and rhymes of Fresh Prince, it sounds brilliantly fresh and expertly realised. Both artists spur on each other to create a work that is diverse, progressing and always diverting. Perhaps the most interesting track is the 13-minute long 'Thank You Jesus' featuring Bizzy Bone. In an example of the sort of daring approach featured here the track takes the form of an extended monologue/dialogue between the rappers. It's essential that you listen to the whole 13 minutes. Just as satisfying is the experimental musical flourishes that colour the quite wondrous Yaper Capers. The eastern tinged sample is typical of the collection's idiosyncratic nature.
Away from mixtapes, esteemed New York producer, rapper, DJ and influential hip-hop figure Tony Touch has gathered an impressive array of MCs together for Unorthodox the first track taken from his forthcoming Piecemaker 3 release. Featuring Wu-Tang luminaries Raekwon, JD Era, Ghostface Killah and RZA, it has an undeniable classic straight up sound that makes it instantly satisfying. The break beat sound is nicely loose enough to allow the impressive collection of stars free rein to express themselves over the top.
'Third Eye' is the first track taken from west coast rapper Thurz's forthcoming Blood On The Canvas mixtape. Production is provided by Khan and the track is a throbbing piece of electro rap helmed by Thurz's frenzied rhymes. It's a nice juxtaposition in style that promises much ahead of the much-anticipated mix.
There's certainly no doubt about the most joyous, ebullient and plain stone cold fun hip-hop release of the month. Spec Boogie's 'Poison Clan' featuring Tanya Morgan is a delight that is perfect for summer. Over horn blasts and military drum rattles with Von Pea helming the production Spec and Lessondary affiliates, Tanya Morgan provide an unabashed 90s style old school party jam. Sometimes music like this is all you really need. The track will feature on Spec Boogies forthcoming album Books & Chicks & Brooklyn Shit.
Finally for this month comes the return of Young Fathers. Back in January, Ill Communication gave a nod to the Edinburgh groups debut EP Tape 1 and Mr Martyr is the clear highlight from forthcoming release Tape 2. If anything, the trio's second full release is even darker and bleaker than their debut. There is a malevolent dread-full quality to the tortured yearning of the vocals. It's undoubtedly harsh and bleak music for dark times. If one of hip-hop's duties is to document the environment and times in which we are living then Young Fathers are doing that better than almost anyone else.
The relationship between rapper and producer is at the heart of almost all great hip-hop. The symbiotic ability of producers to align their beats perfectly with some of hip-hop's most talented and expressive rhyme exponents has given us a long list of notable partnerships throughout hip-hop's history. From Eric B and Rakim to El-P and Killer Mike rap partnerships have an innate sense of power and grace. In this same esteemed lineage comes Low Fidelity, High Quality by Ta-Ku and Rashaan Ahmad. [read more]
Hip-Hop's astonishing rise to prominence as arguably the preeminent musical and cultural phenomenon of the late 80s and 90s was founded on the importance of collectives. Scenes coalesced around key figures and labels. From the Dr Dre led West Coast G Funk sound, to the East Coast milieu centred around The Notorious B.I.G and carried on by the likes of Jay-Z. [read more]
The past month has been rather a tumultuous time for hip-hop. It has been a month that has featured three very different landmark hip-hop releases. Kanye West's much anticipated Yeezus astounded and disgusted in almost equal measure. With trademark hubris and a complete disregard for convention, Kanye delivered a dense, sonically thrilling album that sounded like hip-hop from another planet. At times, it sounds brutal and primeval. Kanye's voice sounds permanently on edge and fevered. [read more]