Review Summary: Moka Only and Chief had a baby together and its name is “Crickets”. “Crickets” has inherited some very desirable qualities from its parents....
After releasing his fifth instalment of the Airport
album series in May, Canada’s Moka Only returns close to the end of 2011 with Switzerland’s Chief to release one of the most anticipated underground hip-hop collaborations of the year. The two artists first came together in 2008 to cross ideas on tracks, “Do Work” and Felt Before”, which were later released on Moka Only’s album Lockdown Suite II – The Box
through Chief’s label Feelin’ Music. After contributing each other’s abilities, they started to see some potential in their collaborative work. Three years later, in 2011, they have left the underground with the result of several years of friendship, hard work, and musical coherence... Crickets
Moka Only comes from Canada’s most impoverished city, Vancouver, which also happens to be the home of one of the world’s most alive and productive underground hip-hop scenes. Indeed Vancouver is the stomping ground for some of todays most innovative and inspiring rappers (most notably Swollen Members, Abstract Rude, Tre Nyce, and AstroLogical) however, Moka Only has always been known exclusively for his signature vocal style and relaxed flow. Some have even called his music indie hip-hop but after almost 20 years since the start of his career he has solidified his own style, unique to the culture. This style is not bound by the limitations of influence from a single genre, but draws influence from an eclectic handful of genres. Today he is one of the fore-runners of modern conscious hip-hop and specializes in producing lounge equip beats. Unfortunately, as is increasingly prevalent in his solo music, his lyricism (for the most part) is not serious or detailed.
Moka Only has made a career out of chopping up and dubbing drums over calm and casual song fragments. His vocals reflect the nature of the content of his music, as in his solo project which has never been lyrically outspoken or in any way significant outside of the context of casual living. This could be why Chief collaborated with Moka Only considering a great portion of Chief’s music is reflective of the same relaxed style that has been so prominent in Moka Only’s career (as a producer). However, most of Moka Only’s success has been attributed to the preservation of culture in his music. This remains unchanged on Crickets
, as it is the staple of his melo-eloquent lyricism on the album.
Moka Only maintains a stable flow and an enervated tone, never giving too much emotion but at the same time, never neglecting to vocally emanate passion and love for his craft. Moka Only’s vocals blend with Chief’s beats and from start to finish and project a masterful control for the rhythm that his voice permeates. Moka Only cycles between frequently re-appearing topics, shedding light on his life, his experience as a Canadian, his experience as a rapper, and the sensory stimulated observations he has reflected on in generalized topics such as food, women, and music. His words are carefully woven and respectful, but those who do not know Moka Only’s story may have some research to do. He frequently reminisces in past album references and important friends from the scene back home. Finally, a respectful amount of restraint is exercised by Moka Only in the prominence of his voice, never drawing too much attention to himself and fairly neglecting emphasis so the listener can appreciate both the effort that he placed in the album and Chief’s.
Chief was born in Lausanne, Switzerland where he grew up and still lives today. Since the early 2000’s he found love in creating beats and after working prolifically for several years started making appearances on many albums and mix tapes onward. In 2008 Moka Only used one of his beats for a track on the album Carrots and Eggs
which was later released through URBNET Records. He has had a very rewarding career that has lead him to this pivotal point in his avocation. The majority of Chief’s beats are slow or moderately paced with some form of jazz influence coalescing into a loungish sort of rhythm. Although his beats were never outstandingly significant or unique, they did offer ripe opportunity for many blooming artists such as Kaydee, Sene, Blu, MF Doom, Jay Dee, 9th Wonder, and of course... Moka Only. Although Chief’s career has been shorter than Moka Only’s, he has had a set of great releases including Drone, Beats & Electric Waves
, Collabo Collection
, and his unofficial Tribute to Chick Corea
. His label Feelin’ Music has received a moderate amount of wealth and success and has brought on a diverse collection of artists with Chief at the helm as ‘Chief’ beat-maker and producer.
Chief has a less leading role on the album Crickets
as lyricism is more commonly appreciated than good and creative beats. As mentioned before Chief uses a lot of jazz standards in his samples, however he also ventures outward and plays around with the different programming’s on his MIDI. His samples are respectful of the rules of continuity sequencing and preserve the time and space of each track. He combines these samples with an array of surrealist synths and textures that adds pleasance to an all too inviting atmosphere. Chief lays the exact musical base necessary to compliment a 20 year standard of style that Moka Only has solidified and applies all the right differences in tone when necessary.
Moka Only and Chief have done an excellent job with Crickets
and have combined the most dominant aspects of each other’s styles. Their articulate form consolidates with the content of the album and creates the prescribed vibe that was sparked in their initial collaborations. Crickets
is not arcane or esoteric and is applicable to the normative standard set by underground hip-hop fans. The P.O.V. is not over-extensive or inferiorating however, the album does require a fair bit of western ethnocentrism and research into Moka Only’s career to be fully understood. Finally, those appreciative of innovative contemporary music will be satisfied by the artful qualities dominating this album. Although it still fits within a set of specialized criteria (genre) and is not groundbreaking, there are a lot of aspects reflective in Crickets
which make it stand-out and atypical in comparison to most modern hip-hop albums.
Form the Future