I’ve always been deeply passionate about music as far back as I can remember. As corny as this may sound, the first song I remember being really influenced by was Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless America” which was really popular during the early 90s when I was around the age of five. Coming from a family with both parents in Iraq during Operation Desert Storm, in addition to a grandfather and aunt, this song was on full blast 24/7 and in retrospect, I remember being really into the passion, and emotion that Greenwood displayed through his vocals; an aspect of music I still covet. My early fixation with music was really distinguished by my mother and grandparents who kept the variety of music that I would listen to down to a minimum. However, when my mother and father finally made things official, my father would bring a whole new world of music to my ears. My dad wasn’t a huge Hip Hop head or anything, but he went through the phase in the 80s as well as many other phases, but essentially he was always a soul, rhythm and blues type of guy. One day around the age of nine, my pops, while cleaning out our storage room, came across a little red box filled with tapes. About to toss them away, I asked if I could go through them first and keep a few. Highly influencing my taste today would be tapes filled by my favorite 70s act the SOS Band, as well as music from Egyptian Lover, Afrika Bambaataa, and Newcleus; all of which served to open my listening preferences to Hip Hop and Electro. Such diverse music experiences have left me open to pretty much any form or genre of music, but my heart will always be with Hip Hop and Electronic.
Eric asked if I would mind coming through to write a few spots every once in awhile, and I really don’t, it’s somewhat of an honor. So what I hope to do is maybe once a week, just share a few of my current listening habits. I hope to keep it really focused and pick a particular group or subject matter to talk about so with out further ado…
Over the past four or five months, I’ve been really blown away by the entire Hydeout Productions team and a few of its affiliates from over the years. Included in my current listenings are lead producer Nujabes, affiliate Fat Jon, producer DJ Deckstream, and an artist whose debut album was entirely produced by Hydeout, Substantial. I first came across the production team through their work on the Anime series, Samurai Champloo, in which both Nujabes and Fat Jon came through on the soundtracks Departure and Impressions. What sets Hydeout productions apart from the current world of Hip Hop production is their jazz influenced beats, distinguished by the active use of the piano, as well as many other natural instruments (as opposed to computer generated). I lost track or we can even say interest in Hydeout a few months after Samurai Champloo stopped airing on Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim, but in ‘07 however, the team has made a huge blip on my radar with Fat Jon dropping Hundred Eight Stars, Nujabes dropping Hydeout Productions Vol. 2, Dj Decksteam coming with Soundtracks, and Substantial’s 2008 release Sacrifice.
Fat Jon’s Hundred Eight Stars is essentially a beat tape demonstrating Jon’s ability to provide a solid beat foundation in which he can then smooth out with “ample” amounts of earthy instrumentation. On tracks like “Nashira”, Jon adds a touch of smooth female vocals, to provide a theme reminiscent of the trip hop genre. But, tracks like “Diadem” seem to be more of the standard with Jon kicking out a pretty solid beat, glued tightly together by the pass of gloomy guitar riffs, and dark samples. “Hundred Eight Stars” seems essential for rainy days as the mood of the album encompasses something straight from the darkest corners of the night skies. Tracks like Jon’s “Altais” and “Mira” make the album a worthy attribute to any instrumental collection. Peep the album HERE (outside link).
Nujabes pushes the influence of Jazz further than any of the other Hydeout producers, and his work seems to be the main influence behind many of the other’s sounds. “Hydeout Productions Vol. 2″, is not made only of instrumental tracks however, though cuts like “Counting Stars” are gems, touched gracefully by the sounds of Spanish guitars, flutes, and violins. Nujabes’ production really shines when aided by vocals as seen on tracks like “Imaginary Folklore” and the CL Smooth aided “Sky Is Falling” which I first came across here at WTR. Substantial makes an appearance on “Hikari”, dropping dope lyrics about finding that special love. Though the beat and lyrics go hand in hand my only disappointment with the album is that many times the beat seems to be much louder than the vocals and the listener is often strained to get a good listen to the lyrics. Granted the production is beautiful and worth the spotlight, I can’t get past the fact that on some of the tracks the vocals seemed as if they were just dumped on. Don’t let this keep you from giving this album a spin as tracks like “Another Reflection” are prime reasons this album made my top 25 of ‘07. Peep the album at H.H.B.
DJ Deckstream’s “Soundtracks” production-wise lies very close to Nujabe’s “Hydeout”, there are far more guest appearances including Lupe Fiasco, Pep Love, Talib Kweli, Bahamadia, and Moka Only making this album for the Hip Hop fan probably a better choice than ”Hydeout Vol. 2″. “Can You Let Me Know” with Lupe Fiasco made a few rounds through the mainstream circuit, and despite it being a great song, “Soundtracks” still went completely unnoticed. The track is brilliant with piano loops abundant, a beautiful hook provided by Sarah Green, and an appearance from Lupe affiliate Verbal. Nikki Jean makes an appearance on “Five Alarm” that definitely switches up the sound of the album providing a smooth R&B cut, for all of the smokers out there. Talib Kweli no doubt got anyone reading this interested in the album and for sure, the cut is great with a highly jazz influenced composition and a highly enthusiastic Kweli providing great lyrics. At the end of the day, the lack of attention paid towards “Soundtracks” is a travesty, but hopefully after reading this you’ll find it worth a few listens. You know where to peep it…props H.H.B.
Last but not least we have Substantial’s sophomore release “Sacrifice”. “To This Union a Sun was Born” was entirely produced by Hydeout Productions, but with “Sacrifice” we see contributions from Kno of the Cunninlynguists, Archetype, and Tonedeff. Production-wise the album is very inconsistent detracting from the overall quality of the album. However, Substantial does his best to keep the album at the highest of quality dropping incredible lyrics in his military like cadence. On “Quality Time” produced by Final, the closest work to his first album under Hydeout, finds Substantial chanting “Hit me when I am speaking so we can hook up a meeting/ at one of the spots we frequent/ or we can just spend a weekend I’m sneaking in creeping no sleeping/ keeping the furniture squeaking hit it low/ brush your teeth/ in other words what I’m speaking is QT” (Something like that). As demonstrated throughout, Substantial proves that dope lyrics can outweigh mediocre production. Though there are a few pitfalls, Sacrifice does have some great production including the Tonedeff produced “Spaticus” carried out with heavy bass, and several change ups throughout. Other great works include “Things We Love” where Substantial focuses on his love of Hip Hop and “4dozdatdonkno” which comes with another phat beat. Of course, you already know where you can find IT.