Review Summary: While his sound is not unique enough to be dubbed distinctly his own, Hud Dreems serves as a testament to this up-and-coming DJ’s keen ear for both chill vibes and funky (yet cerebral) beats.
Like many within his recent influx of fans, I got my first glimpse of Knxwledge’s beat-konducting capabilities while listening to Kendrick’s To Pimp a Butterfly
earlier this year. Remember “Momma?” For your ear's sake, I hope so. “Momma” was one of the undeniable highlights from Kendrick’s latest and what really cements it in my mind as such - aside from the emotional potency that Kendrick’s deeply meditative words brought to the track - is the fact that it’s a testament to how refined Knxwledge’s ear is when it comes to production. The beat behind it is one of the most beautifully composed instrumentals I’ve heard in a long while (which in actuality is a rehashed beat from one of his earlier compositions, “so[rt]” - at least up until the track morphs into that off-kilter, Acid Rap
-y coda). It’s a nuanced, Dilla-reminiscent instrumental that’s primarily driven by a dubbed-out, subtly funky, and hypnotically minimalistic beat, with Knxwledge also adding borrowed snippets from Lalah Hathaway’s “On Your Own” in the background of the percussions to resonate a sensuous and inviting ambience. Granted, the Dilla influence in the track can be glaringly transparent (I particularly see a similar compositional style in both “Momma” and “One for Ghost” from Donuts
), but there’s no denying that this up-and-coming DJ’s got a keen feel for chill vibes and groovy (yet cerebral) beats.
is composed from a similar palette as “Momma.” All of the beats are accentuated with a timbre that is distinctly Stones Throw. It plays like a catalogue of THC-soaked, sampledelic vignettes that give off a smooth, laid-back vibe borrowing heavily from the many chapters of urban music, being heavily grounded in the holy trinity of funk, jazz, and soul. As for the album’s architecture, it’s structured in a fashion that’s similar to, say, Donuts
or Welcome 2 Detroit
(minus the rapping). It plays like like a long, cohesive listen, with the majority of the tracks clocking in at the 90-120 second range. In all honesty, Hud Dreems
isn’t for the casual listener. It’s tailored specifically for hip-hop listeners with a long attention span, but those patient enough to experience the “collaged potency” that these vignettes produce will find that the music does leave a long-lasting impression. As a fan myself, I urge you that, even if the bulk of the beats sound attention-grabbing enough when they pop up as individual moments in an isolated or shuffle-mode context, what really augments the album’s allure is how the tracks feed off of one another and collectively coalesce to fabricate this “late night, stoned, and cruising through the city” kind of feel (which is why I identify it as being somewhat similar to Welcome 2 Detroit
As “Kometostai.Aintreallynootherwaytoputitro” sets off the album, you can immediately hear Knxwledge proudly reppin’ the stereotypical Stones Throw sound. It employs a spacious mix and lush orchestration; it’s funky, mildly psychedelic, and sports a dusty, old-school sounding production. The guitars are echoey and drenched in wah-wah effects, the sample vocals are soft and romantic. Overall, “Kometostai…” is a really solid opener and sets the tone of Hud Dreems
immediately. There’s a studied type of alchemy that Knxwledge exhibits throughout the album, and the way he inserts his chosen foreign fragments and then blends and juxtaposes into a complimentary bond, is, I’d say, creatively on par with either of Stones Throw’s veteran beat konductas. I know that’s a ‘big thing’ to say, but the dude knows how to orchestrate hook-laden beats that stay embedded in your consciousness.
A good deal of Hud Dreems
exhibits a Donuts
-era sense of minimalism in the approach to the instrumentals. Highlights like “Mylife” and “Dntfall,” for example, display recurring loops of simple, hard-bumping drums, dulcet melodies, as well as tiny, yet infectious vocal hooks (I had the “ohhh, sugar baby” line from “Mylife” stuck in my head for days). It’s impressive how these vignettes leave such an immediate impression, despite their familiarity and simplicity. Once you’re immersed - and I mean truly
immersed - in Knxwledge’s mélange of tender ambiences, booming percussions, funky textures, and soulful croons, Hud Dreems
begins to take shape into something beyond a collection of slapped-together fragments and appear as what it really is - a (for the most part) dazzling and remarkably fluid sampledelic record. Hell, i’d give it a higher grade if it didn’t come off as being so derivative at times. Although, derivativeness isn’t the album's only flaw.
houses some impressively and meticulously composed beats that compliment each other quite beautifully. Knxwledge is brilliant at what he does, no doubt about it, but the album’s hold on the listener does fluctuate in strength over time. Knowledge’s aptitude as a composer is impressive, yes, but he tends to return to the same creative well over and over again with an adamancy that’s comparable to, say, Danny Brown’s passion for unapologetically misogynistic rhymes. He never really forgoes the mellow, scenic-like, Stones Throw vibe here - and believe me, the album pays-off once patience and intrigue is invested earnestly - but it’s susceptible to coming off as a little monotonous and tiresome during the first few attempts. The beats retain their solidity throughout, but as the record keeps spinning, the album’s captivation begins to wane because there’s so very little twists and turns. It’s like buying a Costco-seized bag of Funyuns, and even if you intended to plow through it like a shameless, gluttonous slob (I'm projecting my own guilt here), eventually you grow tired of it despite the deliciousness. And as good as the listen is once it hooks you, there’s little replay value here. That is to say, you really
have to be in the mood for it because of how much the individual tracks rely on one another to in order for you to get the most potent and palpable sense of its sonic narrative.
My favorite tracks on the album are “Shuremng,” “Flyinglizrds,” and “rightaftr[THK]” because they’re the few that deviate from Hud Dreems
’ overacrching dynamic. “Shuremng” adapts the noncommittal compositional methods of Madlib and Flying Lotus. It juxtaposes an ethereal mellotron sample with booming percussions and then out of nowhere that whole framework dissolves and the second half of “Shuremng” turns into a groovy, rhythmic bounce from outer space that sounds like it’s straight out of Los Angeles
. “Flyinglizrds” and “rightaftr[THK]” also exhibit a heavy Brainfeeder influence, which calls back to Knxwledge’s earlier sound in albums like Old.Klouds
. “Flyinglizrds” is a booming funk track with thick, groovy baselines and a tremulous wah-wah guitar lick that also wouldn’t sound too out of place in Los Angeles
. “rightaftr[THK]” has a much wilder and digitized sound that plays like an amalgam of Aphex Twin’s rhythmically hyperactive beats and FlyLo’s Until the Quiet Comes
-era, dream-like ambience. These tracks don’t even feel all that out of place amongst the dusty production of the others. Knxwledge has every track segueing into one another with such grace and fluidity. Honestly, it’s a shame he didn’t spice up the album with a little more variety, Hud Dreems
could have been an album of the year contender instead of just another "good release."