Words by Rob Pursey
The word â€˜innovative’ is used far too freely in music and in recent years is primarily used to describe someone who can’t really program a drum machine, thus failing to craft the hit they secretly want to. It’s often applied to those we forget about quickly, too. Now I just know that Owusu and Hannibal are going to have just such a label attached to their every move, and whilst it’s not totally unwarranted as they certainly deal in the off beat and that other new millennium clichÃ© â€˜glitchy’. However, after listening to this, not only can I conclude that they have chosen a very apt title, but they also deserve something far more than the cynicism you’ve been subjected to so far â€“ many apologies.
It’s great when a group draws you into their world, disarming you of your immediate reference points, and just exists. It doesn’t take long either to realise that cuts like â€˜Le Fox and â€˜Lonnie’s Secret’ and future brainworm, and this will be that LP you reach for when you just want something to take you out of the loop for a moment. The key reason it works, though, is their understanding of melody and groove, so any self indulgence with backward drums and the like is balanced neatly with strong musical structure. They even do justice to a group who understood musical structure better than most with their flotation tank take on The Beach Boys â€˜Caroline No’. Unafraid to get their Prince on, with the bizarrely titled â€˜Upstairs Downstairs’, helps round the album too, and â€˜Delirium’ is guaranteed to find favour with fans of Sa-Ra. The bottom line is, the LP has some real soul â€“ something forever lacking in the scene they inhabit.
It’s shame then that â€˜Livingâ€¦’ concludes rather blandly with the morenon-descript pairing of â€˜Elephants’ and â€˜Another Mile’ (before the otherwise cool outro), because until this point they’ve got us. I guess that’s those â€˜experimental’ cats for you? Damn, they’ve got me at it now.
Imagine waking up as a brand? A very select few artists share this feeling with Snoop, but there are even fewer who have achieved it almost purely on charisma alone. The dilemma must always be, do I continue to spell my name out, market the voice, the swagger and slanguistics and ride it out all the way to Vegas retirement? Orâ€¦take a few risks, and preserve my musical legacy, rather than just my corporate one. It seems to me at least, that in recent years, Snoop has chosen pursue the latter option.
Whether it’s some of the edgier production he’s indulged in with The Neptunes or the pop-hop bangers he’s taken worldwide, he’s added a whole slew of standards to the original set of classics, which for a while looked like being almost exclusively from a now fourteen year old debut. Also his recent major label release showed that his call for West Coast unity, was more than just words, and extended to dope collaborations with the likes of Dre, E-40 and B-Real. This official Myspace compilation largely carries on this theme, and second track in we get an incredible posse cut featuring Cali legends that over the years have maybe all fallen a step short of household name status. Word to MC Eiht â€“ my personal vote for the hall of fame. His oldest and most trusted sparring partner, Nate Dogg then jumps in alongside a reverential (but still belligerent) Jeezy â€“ and whilst the subject matter of â€˜Wanna B’z’ is well worn â€“ the execution is fresh. Further guests like Brotha Lynch Hung and Richie Rich add to the feeling that â€˜Unreleased Heatrocks’ is essentially an underground companion to â€˜Tha Blue Carpet Treatment’. Not that this should in any way be perceived as a slight, for the messy Flavor Flav collabo and generic Swizz Beats appearance aside, everything else here earns its place on merit rather than its availability (although this may be closer to the reality).
A major highpoint is the frustratingly short ode to â€˜New York’, where over the whimsical backdrop, Snoop takes us back to a far more unstable time in the mid-90s, before clarifying his true feelings that “New York is the shit”. Now that Nas has flipped a West Coast remix of his epic â€˜Where Are They Now’ series, maybe Snoop could return the compliment and let the main NY protagonists of that era, help him extend it into a modern classic. Hey, you can but dream, so in the meantime I’m going to content myself with the fact that Snoop is back as more than simply a character and is an artist again. An artist who still needs a bit of editing for sure, but as with the above request â€“ one step at a time.
50 Cent – God’s Plan (Remastered)
50 Cent – 50 Cent Is The Future (Remastered)
Hell Rell – The Best Of Hell Rell
Rocafella Hot 97 Freestyles
Little Brother – The Minstrel Show
Matisyahu – Live At Stubb’s
Keisha White – Out Of My Hands
Tuff Crew – Danger Zone
World’s Famous Supreme Team – Rappin
Mobb_Deep-The_Dunn_Language (Unreleased) (2002)
Lucy Pearl – Lucy Pearl
Diplo – Favela On Blast Mixtape
Diplo – Florida LP
Diplo x Scottie B – Live At The Rumble Mix
Bob Marley & The Wailers – Catch A Fire
Bob Marley & The Wailers – Exodus
Bob Marley & The Wailers – Live