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the overlook hotel :: ‘a’ is for…beats?

August 24, 2010


There's a lot of bitching going on about the internets and music...aside from the business/pirating side, cats complain that the ease of putting stuff out there electronically makes for too much material to sort through. Bitch, please. You want record labels to decide what we should listen to? Radio stations? Bloggers? What what?

Sure, you could spend your whole life listening exclusively to Japanese instrumental hip-hop, or digging through Bandcamp, but that's a whole lot better than being force-fed Rick Ross like a goddamn foie gras goose, ain't it?  Yeah, there’s more out there than anyone could physically listen to, and a lot of it’s garbage, but it gives a voice to anyone who wants to make themselves heard.  And the bigger the digital crates, the more the hidden gems.  As the warrior-poet Ice Cube once said, the bigger the cap, the bigger the peelin'.  So here's some beatmakers who begin with 'A' as a taste.



Alphabethead hit me off with his 33 track instrumental LP, N37 Modulations (click to download). Ooh, that's fresh.

I haven't really been keeping up with the instrumental scene lately; feels like I've copped the best talents and finding it harder and harder to find beats that aren't not-quite-good-as-Mumbles/Krush/Son of a Bricklayer/The Nothing/PSY/OPSogist etc.  But I gotta say, this is some dope.  I'm all obsessive compulsive about pruning tracks off if they're not absolute fire, and out of these 33 they're all good.  Don't let his New Zealand origin fool you, this is no...uh, what comes from New Zealand again?  Sheep.  Lord of the Rings. Katherine Mansfield.  Um, that's all I can think of.

You know I likes me some good beats, some funky loops, some good ol' fashioned scratching, and some wacky vocal samples.  Alph got it.  None of that bleepy bloopy, glitchity-glatchety shit.  Think Cut Chemist, Kid Koala, DJ Shadow, DJ Frane, DJ Cam's older shit...this is right up there.  He's got a few other beats over on his site which are worth peeping.  Nice range of sounds, unique samples, good drums--it's all good, my peoples.


Alph's other joint is a fine, fine mix of soundtrack cuts called OST ABC. About 20 minutes in he fucks that Cat People theme right the fuck up, to use the proper medical terminology.


Allah Universal is another master craftsman who's resisted the whole dubstep/glitch-hop trend and sticks with hard beats, ethereal samples and haunting loops.  The challenge for this kind of beatmaker is to hold your attention, hypnotize you to feel the spaces between the beats and call up feelings of nostalgia, loss and a larger world of unspoken beauty.  Not every track does that, but the way he rides the beat and acoustic guitar on "Read Between The Lines" is as good as anything you'll hear from Four Tet, Bonobo or pre-disappearing-up-his-own-ass Prefuse 73.

Peep The U-N-I Verse and Pro-Me-The-Us, and a clutch of others, over at Jamendo.  His newest joint is 21 Days Around The Universe, over at iTunes, and he just started a bandcamp.

(OK, I'm not really describing these joints well, but writing about music has only two modes: nonsensical hype ("Flips the script on the boom-bap for a bap-boom stylee.") and overstretched metaphors that might as well be wine writing ("Hints of Oak(land), traces of (Like Water For) Chocolate, and textures of early Mantronix.").  By now you either trust my picks or you don't.  Download and decide for yourself.)


I could have sworn I hyped Abnorml Injustice before.  Musta been some Illuminati/MJ12 kill switch that deleted it.  Anyway, nice beats and extensive samples for these hip-hop portraits: Ode to Noam Chomsky, Ode to Hunter S. Thompson, and an Ode to Bill Cooper...what's not to like?  Next up an Ode to Slavoj Zizek maybe?


Today's hosted track (below/on ya feed) is Airnino's "Vermont".  Listen to what he does with a two-note piano sample, shimmering jazz drums and a scratched horn loop...it's the kind of jazz-hop that's gotten buried under the softer, noodly Nujabes/Fat Jon kinda shit. He's giving away an LP called Spacesuite Radio, but I have to say I wasn't really feeling it, and there's some more tracks on his Soundcloud.

This track is so hot I got all inspired to do a Fitty Tracks for Fitty States series, but then I could only think of about three other songs ("NY State of Mind," "Baking Soda in Minnesota," Eminem's "Sweet Home Alabama" freestyle in 8 Mile) and then wasted a bunch of time on the internet trying to figure out the Alaskan hip-hop scene or if there even was one besides stupid jokes about MC Eskimo and You Gots To Chill.  Then I was all, stop fucking around for Christ's sake.  Just play the damn song.