Upon getting this album for review, my initial assumption was that this was Atheist, the old speed metal band. Exploring things a bit further, I learned that it was not a group, but an individual named Atheist. He was not metal, but hip-hop. On top of that, he is from Salt Lake City. While I know SLC has been a stop for many hip-hop artists, I wasn’t aware of any rappers from the area, and my stereotypes had to do with me assuming SLC wouldn’t be a place that would be rap friendly. I was proven wrong, and I’m glad I was.
Topanga is an album that I had to sit through a bit in order to figure things out. I’m hearing a guy who sounded decent on the mic and had some clever lyrics, but I wanted to be sure if this guy was legitimate. Atheist himself even touches on the stereotypes that exist for his city, and that opened him up a bit more. The album reflects on his life so far, including his upbringing and the things he experiences on a regular basis, but what holds true is his sense of humor and that he isn’t afraid to poke fun or mock not only himself, but his surroundings to show that despite the assumed differences, we are essentially the same. His definition of “old school” may not be the same as mine or yours, but it’s a reflection of what was good, why that matters, and how we carry that on in our lives today, thus one of the reasons he calls this after a well known sitcom TV show character. The production is quite nice throughout, and I think he can easily find a place in today’s hip-hop, whatever today’s hip-hop represents for the everyday fan. I found myself listening to it and discovering new things with each play, which doesn’t come with every hip-hop album I hear. Believe in the wit and wisdom of Atheist.
AMPP: Return Of The Groovebox is not only a new album by d.o.n., but it seems to be a continuation and appreciation of the kind of gritty hip-hop that sounds as rough and raw as something someone made down the street, but can sound more powerful than what you might hear on the radio or TV.
I think the subtitle Return Of The Groovebox is a slight indication as to what it might sound like: going back to basics, going back to the basement, going back and seeing how old tools of music creativity can be used to make the music of today. d.o.n. used the Roland MC-505 Groovebox to create the entire album, and while not considered a tool of most hip-hop production, it was one of his first ways to make music. The end result is a satisfying album that shows no matter how you do it or what you use, you can still make some hot music when you put your mind in to it. All of these tracks sound like they were recorded on and mastered to cassette, and without samples or recognizable hooks, d.o.n. relies on his lyrics and his creativity to show that it can be done. For some listeners, it may very well remind them of their first experiences with hip-hop music and why they were floored by it, perhaps for the feel of the words, the way sounds collided with one another, or it becoming some people’s first taste of minimalism. It might remind people of the hybrid of music that came out in the late 80’s/early 90’s when dance/techno/house artists were using hip-hop style production to push themselves, and hip-hop tried a bit of house to get their music to a wider audience by exploring the dance floor. It sounds like the origins of hip-hop’s own exploration, and it’s nice for that to be continued on in 2012.