Let’s skip the introduction; I’m just gonna line out a couple points and figure out where to go from there. I’ll try to wrap it up a nice bow at the end.
I. The Production or, It’s Probably Best to Start With the Obvious
Otis Jackson Jr. is arguably the best producer in hip hop right now. What a newsflash, huh? Let’s get through the obvious before we start picking the nits off this album.
If you’re unfamiliar with Jackson, you probably know him through one of his many aliases. If you don’t know him by his aliases, then you probably don’t listen to a whole lot of rap. Simple as that. His style, although incredibly diverse in influence, recalls the finest moments of Prince Paul, Pete Rock and the Dust Brothers. Good company, I’d say.
But there’s also that almost intangible finish on Jackson’s work. Whiffs of Lee “Scratch" Perry productions from the 70's or one of those Sun Ra albums where you can hear people walking around near the microphones, that kind thing. The result is a good pancake; warm and fluffy. Under-produced? Yeah but it’s crisp, too. Everything is still fairly very sharp and discernable except when our man doesn’t want it to be.
Try “Closer," the Madvillainy reprisal featuring MF DOOM, on for size. The female vox hook gives the track an awesome, semi-trip hop feel but I’ve heard 60's garage rock tunes that hiss like this. Jackson is one of those producers who doesn’t mind crackle. Moreover, he’s usually reveling in those snaps and pops. As one of the more “conventional" tracks on the album, “Closer" comes highly recommended.
Though “Closer" might allude to some underlying sense of structure, most of the tracks are amorphous, sample after sample, almost a pure collage of odds and ends. “Civilization Day" would attest to this observation. Songs like “Civilization Day" open up with a sample, turn into a funky little beat, fly into another vocal sample, get back on the beat, Quas will freestyle, another sample, and then end, all in the span of two minutes.
II. The Bearable Lightness of Being or, No One Else Really ***ing Matters
I’ve always viewed the Quasimoto moniker as an opportunity for Jackson to be as out there as he wants, to use the stuff he makes that’s simple inappropriate for other projects. He’s always making the stuff that he wants to hear, but no where else is it more apparent than on his Quasimoto albums. How does this work for him in a good way?
Well, for the most part, what the man likes sounds good. “I know rap my man... I mean hip hop," he says, poking fun at the dance of semantics that hip hop can’t escape. I mean... rap. Whatever you want to call it, the man knows it inside out. Check out “1994," another track I can recommend completely without feeling guilty. He strips the track down to a simple groove, just drums and intermittent horn skronks and bass hits. He staples a Bugs Bunny sample to the front and a Queen Latifah verse onto the end. What? Trust me, it’s good.
Nearly as good, “The Clown (Episode C)," which has Quasimoto opening with the line, “I’ll rock your body like I’m stoning you." The second half of the song is a collage of samples, a casserole of MCing (as obscure as Antoinette, as recognizable as Black Thought,) cartoons, and instructional videos. Pretty interesting stuff, especially as Quasimoto’s rhymes transition into samples over the maudlin beat.
Lyrically, most of the songs are somewhat topical; the middling “Maingirl" is the typical playa track. “Tomorrow Never Knows" is a what’s-the-world-coming-to rant, the logical extension from Madvillainy’s
“Shadows of Tomorrow." A lot a tracks feature Madlib’s business observations like, “Cats’ll drive miles for hours to hear what you sayin’/If you’re ***ty, niggaz throwin’ bottles in they city." But in a lot of other ways, it seems like Jackson ascribes to the Brian Eno school of lyricism, especially in the way he uses Quasimoto. It’s all there for presentation, another sound in the dense mix. Meaning is somewhat irrelevant.
These little eccentricities make for a unique hip hop album that’s not even guaranteed to appeal to straight hip hop heads. And this is where The Further Adventures
starts separating itself from becoming The Unseen, Pt.2
. The Unseen
was chill while still being out there. I mean, who else comes out as a helium-huffing alien aardvark? That’s some Kool Keith *** right there. But there’s a distinct jazz influence on that album, the kind of calming, head-nod inducing stuff A Tribe Called Quest tunes are capable of. Except there’s that aardvark, man.
III. The Significance or, This is the Pretentious Part
was fairly accessible, given the circumstances. This album is a fresh tongue-in-cheek, stream-of-consciousness take on hip hop from a Melvin Van Peebles fan. There are threads of relation to the predecessor but this is wholly unique beast. Each song is one passing moment of stoner epiphany to another. Actually, that’s probably the best way to delineate the album.
Like stoner thoughts, The Further Adventures of Lord Quas
comes unselfconscious. If an idea is bad, and there are plenty of half-baked ideas here, the album takes it in stride and what’s more, it might recycle the idea a few songs later. And it’s odd, because, after the second time around, sometimes it sounds better. For example, you’ve got “Bus Ride," a tune that’s got a sample of an old drunk begging for a sip right in between every verse, sometimes right in the middle of verse. It’s hammy. But then you’ve got “Another Demo Tape," which uses a similar formula and it doesn’t sound half as bad.
In the same stoner mentality, The Further Adventures
establishes a truly choppy train of thought. Overall, the final product sounds more like a turntablist album than anything else. Fleeting, sample-happy tracks are often impressive but simply cannot command immediate attention. Patience ends up being the real key to the album.
You know those Family Circus cartoons where they’ve got Billy running around and he’s got the zany, zig-zag trail behind him? That’s this album. It’s not a step forward, it’s a step to the left, followed by four to the right, a jump up and a moonwalk down the street. If a more daring, left-field hip hop album comes out this year, I’ll be surprised.