Is anyone else left with a bad taste in their mouths after the Grammys? Are we all really so anesthetized now that we need fireworks, an army of glittery dancers, and trapeze acts just to stay interested in music? There always seems to be a contest to see who can put on the most ridiculously over-the-top stage show, but just seems to me like an adult version of dangling shiny keys in a baby's face. OK, yea, put on a great show and all, but seriously?! It just reminds me of how Top 40 types are just too famous, too rich, too showy to feel legitimate anymore: punk rock bands with stylists; singer-songwriters without in-studio pitch correction enough to make Biz Markie's vocal stylings sound more like Babyface; trapeze acts designed to make us forget how utterly forgettable the song is; and rappers who take themselves so deadly serious that their smile muscles seem to have atrophied. And the fans, like Pavlov's dog, conditioned to like it all because the radio plays the songs over and over and over again until people begin to think that's just what good music sounds like.
But what about the fans who still love good music for music's sake, and not just because it is performed by a battalion of ladies in shiny leotards in front of a wind machine? Rap was born as neighborhood street performance, and there's something to me needing to feel that connection to its roots: "that they feet still walk the street, not propped in a limo's back seat."
Well, bubbling under any given genre's Top 40 is a massive amount of talent that is not overrated, not overplayed, and for reasons loosely related to the idea of 'commercial viability', usually just, well, cooler, more enjoyable. But it's hard to get to, the Top 40 industry makes it hard because they don't want you to know about it.
Enter Del the Funkee Homosapien and Tame One's Parallel Uni-Verses. What can I say? For one, I know they can smile because I can almost see them cracking each other up over some of these lyrics...so that's good. But even more importantly is just, they lay it down right, undeniably. It's a bit far out, experimental, folding in all kinds of samples, from babies crying and old TV show dialogues, to bass lines and electric piano runs lifted straight out of the '70s, lush strings, xylophones, flutes, and perfectly executed scratching while Del and Tame One, two of the most capable rappers in the business, pass the mic over an almost Sade-like smoothness, all delivered over rock solid and infectious beats. But see?, this is me trying to describe a picture that fits together perfectly by describing each little puzzle piece...like describing the Sistine chapel by saying, "blue, clouds, green, angels, trumpets." It doesn't get at it! It's not the elements, but how, as artists, they put it all together; and somehow they got it right.
I'll say it this way: If you're throwing a party and you want a great Hip-Hop album to play that everyone will like and nobody will say "I'm so sick of this song"; well then, pour me a drink and put on Parallel Uni-verses by Del and Tame One. Also, what time should I be there, and can I bring a friend?
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