Review Summary: Much obliged Nelson
The War on Terror and gay marriage aside, the major issue that polarizes the western world is without a doubt hip hop. Some say it promotes senseless violence and degrades women, which it does. Others in turn state that it highlights the problems and frustrations of poor and ignored communities, giving them a voice that otherwise wouldn’t be heard. And it does.
The inherent problem is that for every poor righteous teacher there are a thousand ignorant clowns who say nothing, but say it so loud it drowns out the wisdom. These auto tuned buffoons whining over generic Fruit Loops synths are sadly the face of modern hip hop; a Mount Rushmore of golden grills and inane grins.
X-ecutioner Rob Swift is the exception to the rule. Despite being part of one of the biggest of DJ crews, he is as far out in the leftfield of hip hop as it is possible to be. Collaborations with luminaries such as Mike Patton suggest that Swift’s musical scope goes beyond the norm, and his new album confirms it. Composed mainly of cut up classical pieces, Architect
is a journey on the wheels of steel doesn’t so much respond to the critics of hip hop as obliterate them completely.
Primarily a showcase for scratching, the eighteen tracks on this work elevates the manipulation of records to the level of an art form – to the point where it becomes a compositional technique in itself. Swift pulls out all the stops, using every trick in the book to ensure that the music is always fresh, neatly avoiding the monotonous pitfalls that many instrumental albums fall into.
Just two of the songs feature guest vocals, courtesy of Breez Evahflowing (of course). Despite his inability to spell his own name, the rapper drops intelligent rhymes and does just enough to highlight the exceptional music, reminding listeners that the man behind the decks is as important as the man on the mic. And in this case, the madman jogging the vinyl roads is on fire.
As well as being prodigiously talented, Rob Swift is refreshingly modest. Lower Level
, kick-started by sliced up Chuck D vocals, is a homage and eulogy to the golden age of hip hop sampling and conscious styles, before the passion turned to poison. Other tracks sampling Mozart and Mussorgsky serve as a potent reminder that radically different sounds can be brought together to form something more than the sum of its parts; in looking to the past Swift creates the future.
Beethoven’s 9th this ain’t. It is, however, a slap in the face to all those who consider hip hop to be superficial and talentless music. Here’s looking at you, Sputnik.