Headnodic has been the focus of attention for a little over ten years. I first became aware of him through Mission:, and when one of the MC’s in the group, Moe Pope, departed, they turned into Crown City Rockers. In between these albums he’d do the occasional remix, but also came out with two very fine albums, Headnodic Beats Vol. 1 and Tuesday. The former consisted of nothing but his own beat production and bass work, showing his Mission:/Crown City Rockers components, while the latter was a few beats along with tracks featuring a little help from his friends and band mates. The albums seemed fairly low-key, and my interpretation of this was that his group was meant to be the primary focus, while each of them would have the freedom to do whatever they wanted, and they did. Raashan Ahmad has recorded and toured extensively, it always seems like he never stops working, which is good. I’m a Kat Ouano fan for life, and if she’s not busy making her own music, she’s doing shows, sitting in with other artists, and becoming a primary focus in her own right. I’m a producer/beat junkie so I’m thinking like Robin Harris and saying to myself “where the fuck is Headnodic?” Truth is, he has never been far from radar range. He did an album with Moe Pope four years ago, but it had been nine years since he released a full-length album under his own name, and I’m glad to say that with Red Line Radio, he has tuned into the proper frequency and is ready to broadcast the goodness once again.
Let’s get direct and to the point: Raashan Ahmad and Moe Pope reunite Mission: style with the incredible title track, complete with an uptempo groove that shows how well the three of these guys worked together. Things are turned down just a notch (if only a notch) and gets extra funky as Lateef and Lyrics Born do what they do best and become the double-headed beast in “Movin’ On Up”. Add Kat O1O to the mix, and it sounds like you just went into a smoke-filled basement of good sounds and aromas and never want to leave. The highlight of the song (for me at least) is when the beat drops around the 2:18 mark and it sounds like Headnodic caught Lyrics Born eating a meal of some sort. The record light is on, he realizes this, goes “uh”, and he doesn’t get anxious, he just sits in the bean bag and rides with that style and finesse LB is known for. Classy, 100%.
True to his name, Headnodic creates one head nodder after anotther head nodder, and when you hear People Under The Stairs in “Surgeon General”, you realize why this album is called Red Line Radio: you’re tuned into the radio station you have been looking for all your life, the one that has been dominated by podcasts and online frequencies. This one goes back to the emotional vault of good times, and while it feels like the grooves of your favorite hip-hop radio station on the left of the dial, you realize that it’s music that has never faded out from the consciousness of anyone who feels this in the heart.
As the album goes on, the funk never stops. There was a time when you had to go out of your way to find an album that is damn good and you experienced it in real time. You’d pop the album on your turntable, cassette deck, or CD player, and waited anxiously for each song to blow your mind. When they say “Turn Your Radio Up” and you realize “oh shit, Gift Of Gab, The Grouch, and fricken Mr. Lif are in this?”, you can’t believe it. It’s also nice to hear Destani Wolf in the jazzy “Truth”, which features The Jazzy Mafia Horns and true to the title, this is indeed the truth. Wolf has such a rich, soulful voice, and it’s great to hear her bless a Headnodic track once again.
Even with all of these special guests helping him out, the core of his music remains his productions and his bass work, he is someone who has always been confident in how he wants his music to be heard and goes out of his way to make it sound… okay, maybe “sound right” would be too arrogant, but maybe the words I’m trying to say is he goes out of his way to hopefully make his music feel good. He wants that music to make an impact on the listener and that comes from wanting to feel the music himself. As a producer, I can hear the layers and textures in his work, where he’s trying to recreate a vibe from the late 70’s or an 80’s party groove. Hip-hop at its best has always been about borrowing elements and reproducing it in any and all ways, to where you don’t know or care where it actually came from.
My point is this. If Headnodic has been someone you’ve heard about in passing, on blogs, or may have seen his name referenced in reviews, may I suggest getting to know him even more with this album. Red Line Radio is an accumulation of what he has built for himself in the last 12 years, and this is merely a crossroads which came from where he has been, and where he’s about to go next. Ethan Parsonage is probably that guy that, like you, listens to his music deeply and puts that passion he hears in others into his own music, and helps to define his own style. He doesn’t play around, or maybe a better way of saying it is: this is his playground, he knows how to assemble the toys, and if you’re nice, you’re more than welcome to play along with him. Playing, be it on a school ground or music, is about having fun, and Red Line Radio is a fun album from start to finish, feeling youthful like the classics but grown up with the class and dignity that comes from maturity. I look forward to the next frequencies.
(TIP: If you buy the CD version, you can actually put the disc on your turntable and play the label side as it doubles as a record. It features a previously unreleased track by The Mighty Underdogs. Only 1000 copies of the CD version with the vinyl pressed on it were made, and you can order your copy from Amazon.com or your favorite online music merchants.)