Monday, May 10, 2010

LMNO & Kev Brown "Selective Hearing Part 2" HipHop DX Album Review

LMNO & Kev Brown will be releasing their second collaborative album "Selective Hearing Part 2" tomorrow, May 11th and Hip Hop DX has just posted a nice album review. You can check it out below:

In a time when too many artists release over-thought concept albums, it’s nice to come across a record like LMNO & Kev Brown’s Selective Hearing, Part 2. The two artists have stuck to a simple theme: James Brown. The opening line of the opening song, “The Ultimate,” which features suitably funky breaks and The Godfather of Soul's trademark ad-libs and grunts urging the emcees on, is “James Brown is the ultimate,” and that serves as the thesis for the whole sequel collaborative LP. All the music on the album is made up of samples of Brown’s work - and work he had a major influence on. But the legend’s music is not the only thing inspiring the duo; the man’s outsized ego and immodest nature inform their lyrics as well. Each track features both raw, forceful Funk (sometimes very manipulated, sometimes played fairly straight) and boastful, shit-talking verses. Selective Hearing Part 2 has a uniform sound, but it's a pleasure to the ear, and a reminder of who made a way for this thing of ours.

A onetime DJ Jazzy Jeff protege, Kev Brown challenges himself with a new approach, both in his catalog and his work with L. Occasionally, that production leans a little too heavily on the sample, like on a track like "Ya Know," where the breakbeat and James Brown's cut-up vocals are more interesting that any other song accent. For the most part, this is hardly a problem and the album has a stack of stand-out tracks. “We Stay Rockin’” features a great staggering, metallic beat augmented with symbol splashes. Brief but impactful guest spots by Declaime and Mr. Brady ("What's up Kev, man, this beat's outrageous / I banged it so loud that it woke up my neighbors / We got flavor your shit's full of additives") lyrically stay in line with LMNO and Kev Brown's old school bluster. “Kragenoff” also features a notable guest spot, this one by Kaimbr who over the tracks tinny guitar line, crispy snare, and throbbing bass, spits comical lines like “Duck hunting, I got nines / I need a ten 'doe / Touch down in L.A. for endo / With kinfolk." Beyond their bragging and boasting LMNO and Kev Brown make a point to set themselves apart from current trends, for example Kev Brown’s line on “James Brown”, “Might take ‘em a minute to over-stand / I'm lo-fi, Low Budget / What of it? / They sound so lost it's time to get rugged,” or LMNO’s claim to be “Doing what’s natural in a world of plastic” over the molasses-thick bassline in “Gotta Get It.” Elsewhere, on “James Brown Pt. 2,” LMNO shows a gift for more abstract lyricism which he uses to make something original out of a relatively mundane act, “Needles drop, find the groove / Scratch the surface, somethin' so smooth / Move with the sun and moon in good shape / The way the deejay's run too come through with laptops or crates / Snatched off a cassette tape and ran into a dub plate."

The second installment of Selective Hearing'a two best tracks are the ones that do the most with The Hardest Working Man In Show Business’ music. First up is “Good Gawd.” Kev Brown’s intense mixture of thudding piano, horn splashes, and the ever-present drums and bass creates a pulsating, intoxicating beat. Over which he spits “I'm real talk they not hardly / James told me to go in / I guess we gon' crash the party,” and that fits in perfectly with the record's main conceit: James Brown’s bone-simple Funk, a healthy ego, and talent on the mic are all you need to create great Hip Hop. That is, of course, if you also happen to be extremely talented at putting those pieces together. "Raw, gritty, dynamite soul, superman rap" is how guest Hassaan Mackey describes it in his exceptional guest verse. That description certainly fits “Guaranteed,” where Kev Brown uses the Funky People Records founder's music to create an almost psychedelic background featuring a distorted, fried guitar sample that occasionally bursts into the foreground in startling clarity. The track also features some of LMNO’s best lyrics: “My head's high / My overhead's low / Came from the middle with two places to go / I chose to grow/I'm not hard to like and not easy to impress."

The album may not be revolutionary in its conception or execution, as you can find similar Brown studies such as Edan's Sound of the Funky Drummer. But halfway through a year that will see LMNO release an album a month, this is the far-and-away his greatest, most meaningful work of 2010. Just as was the case in their 2008 union, when the Visionaries emcee and the Low Budget emcee/producer cross paths, the bi-coastal duo meet each other in the middle of a groove. At a time in Hip Hop where James Brown's blueprint feels like its gone to crates out of reach, Selective Hearing Part 2 brings it back, like the deejays who taught us in the first place.

1 comment:

  1. I dig how James "LMNO" and Kev Brown combined to sample and flow over James Brown material. So many layers of meaning, it's like a Samuel Beckett novel (that makes sense).