Arts and Entertainment
by Mosi Reeves
IF ANY OF you have met me in person, you've probably noticed that I am often at a loss for words. This is because I am always reaching to express something that's slightly beyond my grasp. Such is the case with "avant-garde rap," or "experimental hip-hop," or whatever moniker is being used to describe weird and unusual hip-hop music these days.
There is a big difference, for sure, between Algorithm's "Defective Experiment," backed with "C.P.U.," "Someday," and "Requiem for the Illusionist" (Counterflow, www.algocentral.com), and Jaz-O and the Immobilarie's "Love Is Gone" (D&D). Not to be confused with the Canadian techno DJ Algorithm, this group, composed of rapper-musician Seth P. Brundel and producer Plex, consciously set themselves apart with lyrics like "I'd rather get shot / Than fit into this perfect little box" and beats driven by keyboard melodies and bizarre turntable manipulations scratched by Infamous of the Allies.
Meanwhile, Jaz-O and the Immobilarie boast nothing but a beautiful hip-hop beat from the illustrious DJ Premier on "Love Is Gone." After the opening bars kick in, Jaz-O and the Immobilarie rock lyrics like "I drop jewels for your DNA /Threw tools to you /Even choose to do your own DNA" as they illustrate what happens when relationships with one's friends, woman, and record label go sour. They prove that an idea spoken plainly, albeit metaphorically, can be as complex as one rendered with obtuse, multisyllabic words.
So how does one compare and contrast the two without devaluing either? I sympathize with El-P when he screams, "Now, motherfucker, did I sound abstract?!!" on "Tuned Mass Damper," the B-side to "Deep Space 9mm" (Def Jux, www.defjux.net), because he fears his art is being marginalized from the hip-hop mainstream. True, there's a certain kind of elitist who argues that El-P and Algorithm are more innovative than Jaz-O and the Immobilarie. But great hip-hop is not only hot beats and rhymes but also lyrics rapped in a certain cadence to highlight specific melodies and beats sequenced to perfectly match an MC's verbal patterns. For sure, all three singles bear those qualities. But their unique attributes beg for new categories that inevitably set them apart.
Then you have Deep Puddle Dynamics' "More from June," backed with Anticon's "We Ain't Fessin' (Double Quotes)" and "Pitty Party People" (Anticon, www.anticon.com). Anticon are seen by most people as being deliberately obscure, rapping and singing broken verse over atmospheric music that's unpredictably exciting at times but too often meandering. What Anticon's critics don't understand is that many of their recordings aren't for casual listeners but avowed fans who appreciate listening to every stage of an artist's development, from the rough sketches and ideas that make up cLOUDDEAD's debut to Why and Odd Nosdam's more confident, if equally inscrutable, Split EP.
Sometimes the voice is so powerful that most people prefer listening to the instrumentals instead. In that case, I recommend Dabrye's recent album One/Three (Ghostly International, www.ghostly.com), available on vinyl as a five-song EP. It's quiet and reflective, highlighted by jazz horns and quaint melodies. Finally, I received a white label promo from Def Jux that features producer RJD2's new single. It's fantastic, better than anything I've heard from him before, but I don't know what the name of it is. All I can say is, when it's released, run out to the store and buy it. Send all products and gewgaws in care of the author to 484 Lake Park Ave., PMB 349, Oakland, CA 94610. Comments, tips, and disses should be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org.