L.L. Cool J once said in “Going Back To Cali” a line that said “pop in a cassette and push play.” Ever since then, it seems in order for rappers to drive down the popular route, they have done just that: create music that sounds like it was done without effort for the sake of maximum profits. Whether or not they made maximum profits is not of my concern, but what I still like to hear on a hip-hop album that sounds like there was an effort to create… anything. Thavius Beck has gained a reputation for his work as an electronic music producer, although one can say the same thing about many of today’s hip-hop producers. Whether or not calling him an “electronic music producer” gives him a bit more legitimacy (opposed to being called nothing more than a guy who pushes buttons) is unknown, but get rid of any pre-conceived notions.
If you bought K-The-I???‘s most recent album, Yesterday, Today & Tomorrow (which I reviewed in The Run-Off Groove #221), then you will know what Beck is all about. He handles the ol’ boom bap perfectly, but what makes him who he is is not just the way he is able to chop and filter drum beats, but also the carefully-selected samples that he uses for atmospherics. Basslines boom in the deepest way, Hammond B-3’s running through Leslie speakers blare and deafen, it’s mindblowing.
When you have a producer that makes music fearlessly, and an MC who shares those same ethics, it becomes a statement. When you happen to fill both positions, in that you’re the MC knowing the music from the inside out, or the producer who knows how to excite your producer in the best ways possible, there’s a self-contained chemistry that fits perfectly when done right. You’re hearing brain matter at work, it’s an album you have to listen deeply in order to get the full gist of what’s going on. Even if you know of Beck’s work as Adlib, that’s just one click of the Cube. Dialogue (Big Dada/Mush) is an album that defines… well, maybe that’s not a right way to put it, so let me try again. Dialogue is communication defined, between MC and producer, between artist and fan, between hip-hop and the world, between brain matter and electronics, between human and binary code, it’s the lost language amplified to great levels. No, that’s not right either.
Maybe it would be best to just say “those who wondered why hip-hop has not been as innovative as it once was can look to Thavius Beck as not so much a pioneer, but an explorer of the potential untapped.” I like that, let’s call this review a “wrap”.
(Dialogue has already been released in the UK through Big Dada, and can be bought digitally in the U.S. through Mush Records, who will give it a formal (i.e. CD) release on January 26, 2010.)