Review Summary: Experimental and explosive, St. Elsewhere is an awesome album, but burns out quite quickly. Instructions for enjoying: Listen to it and love it in its entirety, never listen to it again.
In 2006, hip-hop was seen by many as a dead musical genre. With songs like “Vans,” “Laffy Taffy,” and “Chain Hang Low,” carving niches on the Billboard Hot 100, rap was only digging itself a deeper hole in the eyes of the public. Hell, even Nas
thought it was dead. Of course, at the time, I was twelve. I thought Laffy Taffy’s beat was off the chain and Vans was my jam, dog. Looking back, I was a fool then, but hip-hop antagonists were fools even more so than me. Sure, the mainstream values of the genre had degraded since its widely commended heyday. The songs occupying the radio had helped re-enforce the widely held stereotype that rap was full of formulaic, talentless, shallow morons. But hardly did any of the rap cynics sniff a disproving example that was right under their nose. The example? Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy.”
Sure, it was easy not to recognize the piping-hot single as a rap song. Its simplistic funk-with-violins instrumental isn’t akin to the formulaic pop synths and heavy bass beats heard on the radio. Nor is Cee-Lo Green’s inspired, southern gospel-like style of vocals anything similar to the monotone, basic drone of mainstream rappers as exhibited on the FM channels of the commonwealth. But, then again, I wouldn’t expect thirty-something, suburbanite mom Janet to understand anything about hip-hop after her recent distress over her son’s new annoying habits of swearing and referring to everybody in sight as “g’s” (as picked up from those monstrous rappers on the local hits radio station.)
But, maybe I wouldn’t either. One of my favorite things about rap is its ability to morph itself. To bend itself to the limit with all kinds of influences, attitudes, and styles, but retain the classification of hip-hop, and St. Elsewhere
is one of those albums that does as such. Whether its stylistic base or the backgrounds of its conductors (DJ Dangermouse and Goodie Mobb’s Cee-Lo Green) make it rap, St. Elsewhere
is a glimpse of the creativity and uniqueness that is to be had in hip-hop.
The entire album just has an atmosphere that confirms itself as an experimental, yet explosive effort. Only slightly rooting itself in hip-hop, St. Elsewhere
finds a variety of influences from a wide array of musical genres. With Cee-Lo heading the mic, the album receives a touch of soul and alternative through the preacher-like vocals and lyrics vaguely reminiscent of indie rock, and with Dangermouse commandeering the boards, St. Elsewhere
is blessed with a touch of, well, just about everything. The producer has dabbled in a handful projects, spanning across several genres, and is very versatile when it comes to sound, as exhibited in his multiple influences emplaced upon St. Elsewhere
. Beats range anywhere from pop rock (wooden xylophones and feel-good guitars on “Gone Daddy Gone”) to downtempo electronic (monotone keyboard synths and slow-paced brass percussion on “Who Cares?”) to futuristic jazz (spastic, erratic horns, high-pitched keyboard synths, and hyperspeed, light cymbals on “Transformer,”) and the Dangermouse imprint is rather noticeably. He fuses small portions of hip-hop to larger, more unusual, foreign styles used in rap, but simultaneously makes it fun.
But, St. Elsewhere
is, much like a one night stand, something to be picked up, put down, and never to be touched on ever again. Definitely not to be commended for its repeat value – what little of it there is, anyway – St. Elsewhere
’s best aspect lies within its fun, which is manifested by its imaginativeness and spontaneity. The first (and hopefully last) listen to this album is an immersion in pop-like insensibilities. Rather, the listening experience is about throwing technicalities to the wind, and although great in such, St. Elsewhere
simply isn’t as appealing when examined, and a second listen surely calls for the album to be thrown under the microscope.
Well, it’s been fun St. Elsewhere
, we had our times, I enjoyed you fully for the time I had you. You’re awesome, fun, and out there, that’s what I like about you. But it’s best if we stopped seeing one another. We’re just not right for one another in the long term. After the final sentence in this review, I’ll probably never listen to you again, but be happy knowing I absolutely loved you for what it was. And ‘what it was’ was simply a one-time thing.