Friday, July 11, 2008

Flag Bearers

Stones Throw has to be one of the hottest labels in Hip-Hop. I have been listening to Guilty Simpson’s Ode to the Ghetto*, and while the album studio team is lead by the legendary Jaylib (Madlib, J.Dilla), it should be said that some of the albums best moments come courtesy of Black Milk.

It’s not to say that he is better by any standard, but his three tracks contain the Jaylib "sound" that his legendary predecessors can claim rites to. Each track is distinct from the other, which makes the juxtaposition of “My Moment” and “Run" wild since their respective synth use is almost alien. “Moment” is a slumped ride down to cruise, while “Run” is a fiendish riff looking for trouble. My favorite of the three is “The Real Me,” probably because it reminds me of Dilla (R.I.P.) almost instantly. The beat doesn’t sound like he wants be the man, but like their fingerprints have traced the same studio boards if you know what I mean. Black Milk is carrying on their tradition in the present, so remember the name and look for it in the future.

No matter if you are a fan of the past, present, or future when it comes to Hip-Hop 2008, the Roots have to be central to the conversation. There has been plenty of great stuff written about the Roots's Rising Down so I won’t try to repeat established ideas in print, but I will put my money down on this, they are the essential Hip-Hop artist/crew of my generation.

Rising in the mid-nineties, the Roots not only took a completely individual slant on the genre, but also immersed themselves in understanding their place in musical history. They ushered in the “Organic” thing as much as anyone without demonizing their notorious past. They sought to inform an audience off stage, as much as they unapologetically attacked their opposition while on it. ?uestlove has become an icon, and ambassador, for Hip-Hop music and culture. They tour probably better than anyone, always play an irreplaceable set, and continue to grow in audience despite their uncompromising musical direction and politics. They have played with Jay-Z, Fall Out Boy, Erykah Badu, and Stephen Colbert. The Roots are contradictory by nature, and singular in comparison. Rising Down is a great album, from one of the truly undeniable bands of my time.

*Guilty Simpson can get away with his lyrics/delivery, but Ode lacks dramatic content and memorable hooks. Not bad, but I'm there for the production.

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