(Picnic Tyme) There's a strange pattern that exists in hip hop wherein every few years, the south, as a whole, will have to prove itself as a purveyor of intelligent, progressive hip hop. I'm not sure why the south is always the region brought in to question and forced to present credentials. It may be because so many fun, frenetic, hip hop-related dance styles regularly emerge from the south. Maybe it's because every few years, the south gives us a new version Miami Bass, or Bounce, or Crunk, or Wobble that is so frenetic and loud that it lends itself to being written off as simple. Maybe it's because most music is mastered to sound good in our homes and automobiles, but music produced in Atlanta is mastered to sound good in the strip club. Maybe it's simply because America still likes to think of the South as backwards or slow. Regardless of origin, this trend is undeniable. Every few years, this has to happen, and apparently, this is the year.
So far in 2011, I've written about some outstanding new-school albums from the likes of Pac Div, Chiddy Bang, The Niceguys, Outdoorsmen, and Dom Kennedy, but there hasn't been solid new-school offering from the south...until now. A.Dd+ are from Texas. This week, A.Dd+ released their debut full-length album, When Pigs Fly, online. The album is free, and it is triumphant. When Pigs Fly pays homage to the best of the south's long tradition of conscious, progressive rap, while opening up a new chapter by combining the classics with new-school elements.
The opening track, "The Rapper and the Poet," makes its first impression with an 8-bit intro before transitioning into a dense, guitar-heavy beat that reminds me a bit of OutKast's "Chonkyfire" mixed with "Aquemini." The vocals are very ATL as well. There's even a spoken-word cadence in the second verse that sounds like Cee Lo on Goodie MOB's "Still Standing." And the opener ends with an Erykah Badu-style coda voiced by Mz. Fortune (who makes numerous excellent appearances).
Some other tracks also conjure images of Outkast's second album. The percussion on "Smell My Cologne" will remind you of "SpottieOttieDopalicious." And "Brain Sex" incorporates scratching, a classic guitar tone (Stevie Ray or Jimi's Strat/Marshall set-up?), and solid keys work. And the bars in "Brain Sex" are sick. The complex, melodic flows bring to mind 3000 and "Paper Trail"-era TI.
"Likeamug" further updates the new-school south. This track is founded on a Massive synth and that 8 bit synth from TI's "Whatever You Like," but it brings transposed vocals and a hook that sort of reminds me a bit of Khujo Goodie's solo work. ("Ultimate Hustla" anybody?)
"The Everyday" throws a bit of a curve ball and brings some NYC to A.Dd+'s sound. This track uses a Slick Rick sample and blends scratching with a synth flute and organ loop that sounds more NY Underground than Texas. Both this track and the mellow "Goodwill" sort of sound like more major-key versions of the mellower Dead Prez tracks like "Happiness" or "Be Healthy."
The song "Erica and Jamie" is one of the best, most innovative hip hop tracks I've heard in a while. It paints a very vivid and specific picture using themed, linear verses, sound effects, a sparse beat, and a sax that will make you think you're listening to Paul Desmond in a cocktail lounge in 1960. This one may not be a single, but it's the standout, in my opinion.
Of course, all of this discussion of what's new and what's intellectual is not to say that this isn't a fun album. There are some super fun dance tracks on this one. "Satellites," for instance, could be a more intelligent/tongue-in-cheek Flo Rida or LMFAO party track. It even semi-quotes Q Tip's "Vivrant Thing," and a Q Tip track is always a party.
Don't miss this album. This is real hip hop. This is a great example of the myriad influences that still merge smoothly in the South. And if there's any justice in the world, you're going to hear a lot more from A.Dd+.
Standout Tracks: "Erica and Jamie," "The Rapper and the Poet," "Smell My Cologne," "Brain Sex"
For Fans Of: Flo Rida, LMFAO, Q Tip