OK. The best rap album centered around food is MM FOOD by the late great MF DOOM.
But this might be the second best.
I have to confess, I had never heard P.A. before. But he’s got quite a pedigree as a musician, playing with Lauryn Hill’s touring band, backing Erykah Badu, and recording his own jazz (and jazz-adjacent) material over the past decade-and-a-half (under his given name, Leron Thomas), before moving to rap.
Of course I was familiar with Damu’s production. His work is everywhere. But I had no idea he had signed on as Amsterdam’s tour DJ. And it makes sense. Fudgemunk can play instruments. And Pan Amsterdam is–get this–a hip hop trumpeter. Seriously. And it works. It works really, really well!
Amsterdam’s lyrics are fascinating and funny. Its nice to hear a guy who can do humor without being silly, and who can conjure images and ideas, rapidly, that make you think and smile at the same time. Whether it’s throw away questions like, “Is it half the time or time passes?” or the opening lines of Duck Wok, ” Give me stocks on the new blocks/To hell with an EGOT/On a plant-based detox/Gotta watch glorified peacocks/On a treadmill rockin Reebocks/Rather beatbox…”
The album jumps through styles–but largely returns over and over to boom-bap. Musically, Fudgemunk is always a solid producer, and the punctuation by Amsterdam’s trumpet gives the emcee another way to jump into a song–a non-verbal way to participate in a break that’s not open to most rappers.
And as for flow…Think Homeboy Sandman, but with a more jazzy/melodic feel. I can’t say Pan Amsterdam ever sings per se, but he extends and contracts to match the full, complex instrumentation behind him. Like so much of this record, that’s something you just don’t hear on most other rap albums today.
This is not like many other releases and I suspect it will get lost in the constant shuffle of endless new rap albums that come out fast and furious now that home production is so easy. And so many sound the same. But you’ll do yourself a favor not to miss this one.