So just over three years ago, this column made it’s debut. (Here’s what it looked like, it’s like looking at class pictures from Middle School.) The debut was a rather melancholy affair, but was pretty true to my musical tastes.
I’d always intended to revisit columns on the anniversary of their post, starting with the debut, but I pretty much managed to miss every anniversary of this column, every year. But my intention was to revisit the column and sort of remix them. I wanted to take a component (the theme or the concept) and tweak it a bit to create a new column that would have the added subtext of being inspired by something that I’d previously written.
Well now I’m in a position to realize that notion.
Thus since my debut was born out of disharmony between a couple of folks, this column will focus on some of my favorite musical pairings of the Hip Hop variety. So with no further delay allow me to get on with the column I’ve been waiting at least a year and a half to write.
Hip Hop’s Great Couplings
9th Wonder has made a name for himself by creating a sound that’s remenicent of early 90’s East Coast, so it makes sense that he’d team up with Buckshot, an East Coast MC who’s not been relevant since the early 90’s. Together on Chemistry they make an album full of songs that are easy to nod your head to, as well as make you long for a time when every album was as enjoyable.
Danger Mouse/Cee Lo
First thing first; St. Elsewhere is outrageously hyped, but most of that hype is deserved. It really is a damn fine album. I was reluctant to enjoy it, because deep down I don’t like to like what’s popular. But this album is nutty, in a joyous kind of way. I think why I enjoy it so much is because it sounds like two guys who just wanted to create and weren’t really worried about getting airplay or moving units.
Danger Mouse/MF Doom
Another odd and oddly perfect paring. Doom sounds almost upbeat, due in a large part o Danger Mouse’s almost cheery beats. Created as a tie in to Adult Swim, The Mouse and the Mask accomplishes it’s mission, and despite the lack of profanity MF Doom both artists remain very true to form.
One wouldn’t imagine that an album build around the concept of chess would be fun to listen to, but this one’s a treat. Mugg’s beats, which were culled from 90’s sessions, are put to good use by Gza as he rides them as though they were vintage Rza product. It’s like a trip down memory lane, as Gza seems reinvigorated on the mic and Muggs reminds everyone that he’s still a top producer in the game.
Gangstarr is as venerable as it comes in terms of Hip Hop groups. Preemo and Guru, neither of whom are from New York, provided the soundtrack to Brooklyn for many of Hip Hop fans who didn’t hail from NYC. Over the years they grew together, and the Gangstarr sound has become synonymous with “Hip Hop.” Sadly they also grew apart, but still the “good ol’ days” were actually pretty great.
I’ll go ahead and go on record by saying that anyone who has an album produced entirely by Premier is going to have a halfway decent album (Group Home anyone?), but Jeru also brought it on the mic. Jeru has a vocabulary and isn’t afraid to use it. Furthermore Jeru knows how to ride a Preemo beat (and if you don’t know the glory of a Preemo beat than your soul is in my thoughts.) Premier also deserves credit for crafting sparse, yet knocking beats that complimented Jeru’s straightforward rhyme style.
Champion Sound is one of my favorite collaborations, primarily because it featured two producers who split everything down the line; when Madlib rhymed over Dilla’s beats and vice versa. It also seemed to bring the best out of both of them, both on the mic and behind the boards. Champion Sound is a great experiment as well as a divine competition.
Akinyele’s debut, Vagina Diner is one of those rare albums that was produced entirely by Large Professor. It’s almost as rewarding to hear Akinyele rhyme over some dope beats as it is to hear him rhyme from a time before he adopted his gimmick. Sure Akinyele’s punchline style can get tiring, but Extra P’s production more than make up for occasionally corny lyrics.
These two collaborated on a bizarre concept album that was as dark and eerie as it was genius. Madlib made beats that impossibly seemed to compliment MF Doom’s stream of consciousness flow. The result is an album of tracks that rarely last more than three minutes and each song seems more “out there” than the previous one. In other words its’ just how you’d imagine a collaboration between Madlib and MF Doom would sound.
After Fashion became Al Tariq and left the Beatnuts a duo, I was worried about the quality of the brand. Fortunately both Les and Juju stepped things up both beatwise and on the mic. The humor remained intact as the beat quality, which can range from pure Hip Hop to damn near whimsical. Losing Fashion seemed to make Les and Juju bond and gel even closer than before, creating some of the most memorable (and popular) songs in the Beatnuts catalogue.
Tom continues with his New Classics.
Shawn has Saturday on lock, and he’s got news on Axl!
Gloomy is in L-O-V-E!
Home of the Debut
Ian is back and he’s got glowing news about Radiohead. He’s also shown me that no one cool will ever had a concert in Vegas.
Five Songs I’m Listening To Right Now
1. Jenny Lewis with the Watson Twins – Rise Up With Fists!!
2. The Postal Service – Nothing Better
3. Eagles of Death Metal – Cherry Cola
4. The Raconteurs – Intimate Secretary
5. Gnarls Barkley – St. Elsewhere