One Block Radius – One Block Radius
Mercury / Island (9/16/08)
Hip-hop / R&B / Breakbeat / Pop
On their self-titled album, Mercury/Island Def Jam recording artist One Block Radius meshes old- and new-school into a sound that combines pop, R&B, funk and hip-hop. The trio, made up of vocalist/rapper Marty James and DJ MDA (both formerly of defunct hip-hop/breakbeat act Scapegoat Wax), along with MC Z-Man (of the Hieroglyphics camp), counts among their influences alt-rap pioneers like De La Soul and Cypress Hill, ska-rockers Sublime and classic-’80s soul-inspired crooners like Steve Winwood, Hall & Oates and David Bowie. The end result is an album that effortlessly crosses genres in a melting pot of a set, while also managing to pull off things like a sample of “Mama’s Heart”, by garage-rock sweethearts The White Stripes. The group has no problem making it all work itself out with ease.
The group really has a solid sound here, as they kick off the set with “We On”, showcasing an astute understanding of hip-hop, rock and funk. The catchy “Screwin’ It Up” has the potential to be a successful radio single, and the funky “You Got Me” should be mashed-up with “Walk This Way” by Aerosmith and Run-D.M.C. “Choc-o-lat” has a decent techno/R&B thing going on with the beat, but ends up being way too annoying and self-indulgent. “Want U Back” starts off with a piano intro, giving it a sweet touch, while “Ever Known” has a strong message and could be another great radio single.
While nothing particularly ground-breaking or awe-inspiring, One Block Radius is worth picking up if you fancy experimental/alternative hip-hop and/or artists who like to blend genres. It’s got enough pop and R&B influences where it has mainstream appeal (not to mention the optimistic, upbeat tone of most of the music), but also doesn’t pander too much to the masses and could be just as marketable to underground-hip-hop heads.
Tags: Aerosmith, cypress hill, David Bowie, De La Soul