I think one of the hardest kinds of music to make is hip hop. In the mainstream, you’ve got mostly mediocre rappers with high-class producers who invest it all in a hook for a club banger or radio single. Sure, Dre can hook up with guys like Game and Em who really can rap, and Timbaland can hook up with Missy, and the Neptunes with Clipse, but for the most part radio and club rap is pretty dull. And even heavy hitters who can make you move your feet, like Nelly or 50, rarely if ever make you think . . . Or even feel. The same is true in the underground. For every MF DOOM or Lyrics Born, there’s a million guys who just don’t quite get to that place where music, philosophy, and dance come together and reach a higher level. And although I can appreciate Atmosphere, El-P, Soul Position, etc., I rarely if ever want to listen to a whole record by them.
This is why I appreciate “Beautiful Mindz,” the newest release from Eclectic Breaks & Amalgam records.
Eclectic Breaks is a club label that backs a bigtime UK club, and Amalgam Entertainment is an indie hip hop label trying to break into the world of digital retail. Together, they’ve backed an LP produced by Jim 2Tall with vocals by Dudley Perkins and Georgia Anne Muldrow. Perkins is a conscious rapper with an old school smooth voice who you might know as “Declaime,” part of the West Coast 805 Hip Hop crew (Lootpack, Quasimoto, Wildchild, Oh No, Medaphoar), or as the guy from The Alkaholiks’ tune, “Coast To Coast” (Loud), or from his work with Madlib and Stones Throw Records. Muldrow is also on Stones Throw, and she’s a soul singer along the lines of Lauryn Hill. She was just signed by Peanut Butter Wolf to a two-record deal–the only gal on Stones Throw, I think.
After the intro track, the album kicks in with “A Tall,” which namedrops the Mothership Connection, but the project owes an equal debt to Curtis Mayfield, Spearhead, and gals like Macy Gray–folks who have combined rap, soul, the sensibilities of the late 1960s/early 1970s, cosmology, and godraps into that heady thing sometimes called positive conscious rap. Perkins is not an intricate rhymer–he’s not trying to impress you with vocal gymnastics. He’s that rare thing in hip hop: A guy who’s willing to step into the music and rhyme alongside it, not compete with it. DJ 2Tall is incredibly talented–making intricate beats too unpredictable to sit in the background–and Perkins wisely finds the beat in every song, instead of letting it find him. This album would just sound busy under a less skilled, less humble emcee. The same is true of Muldrow, who punctuates every beat and fill with incredibly rich vocal drops.
Nowhere is that more true than on the title track, which I’m offering to you all as a taste. This is a fantastic hip hop project, the kind we should encourage. If we don’t spend our beans on this kinda music, will be stuck with the mainstream crap and will have nobody to blame but ourselves.