Quannum is a name that some of you might know. It is a hip-hop label, formerly known as SoleSides, featuring such acclaimed and prodigious talents as Blackalicious
and, perhaps most notable, DJ Shadow
. They are all famous for pushing the boundaries of hip-hop (especially DJ Shadow) particular album, they came together, recording an incendiary, creative hip-hop album
Disclaimer: If you dislike reviews written from a personal angle, disregard the following paragraph:
The Quannum collective’s Quannum Spectrum is a difficult album for me to review. Why" Because I think, while reviews are about opinions, there needs to be facts supporting these opinions. Thus a good review demands a certain degree of knowledge, which is where my problem is. Hip hop is a new genre for me. Close-minded as I was, I disregarded it along with a lot of other genres that I’ve learned to appreciate. It’s the usual story of a rock/indie/whatever music fan, who is turned off by 50 cent and other mainstream artists. Now, obviously, I knew good hip-hop existed, and I had even heard a few critically acclaimed hip-hop albums, but I hadn’t really learned to appreciate the genre. I couldn’t honestly say that I loved a hip-hop album. Enter Quannum Spectrum. Some guy at some forum recommended this album to someone else. Now this ‘someone else’ was in a similar position. He simply didn’t like hip-hop, and had dismissed it as a stupid genre. This ‘some guy’ told him to listen to Quannum - Quannum Spectrum, claiming that if he did not like the album, he did not have a shred of hip-hop in him. So I picked this up at a library and began listening to it, and eventually bought it. This and Deltron 3030 became my first hip-hop albums.
Quannum Spectrum is a very passionate, aggressive record. Like a lot of hip-hop artists, the lyrics are confident and boastful. The album is introduced by the faux radio-host Mack B. Dog. The setting is as follows: You are in your car at three a.m. in the morning, driving in the rain, and you tune into Mack B. Dog’s station. I imagine these conditions would be quite ideal for listening to this album. Mack B. Dog comes in with skits and interviews throughout the album. Sometimes these become tiresome (see: Kanye West
), though some albums use skits that suit the album and actually enhance the experience (See: [l]Deltron[/l and this album]). Using skits and interludes will always make some people complain that it detracts from the album, but I honestly think the whole late night, car-radio setting is neat, and suits the sound of the album well.
Producer duties are separated between Lyrics Born
, Chief Xcel
and DJ Shadow
for the most part. The vocal presentations are the focal points. The beats are generally very funky, but rather sparse, as to not overshadow the MC’s. Some DJ Shadow
fans have complained about this, though they shouldn’t. Quannum Spectrum isn’t really that similar to Endtroducing, and it isn’t supposed to be either. The beats serve their purpose in these songs, giving the MC’s the room they need. DJ Shadow is given the most praise, possibly more because he is already established as a fantastic DJ, rather than because his beats are noticeably better. I didn’t notice any huge difference before reading who had made the beats for each song. They’re all funky and all great.
Arguably, all of these songs are great too, but obviously, a few stand out more than others. Highlight number one is “Storm Warning". The song is an apocalyptic tale of a storm and an earthquake occurring at once. The flow is rather unique and very fast-paced, adding to the chaos that the lyrics describe. The chorus goes (Riveting whirlwinds ripping the world / women and children wait a minute we’re all in jeopardy)
Now I’ve been very fond of Lyrics Born’s unique style since I started listening to hip-hop, but he is particularly fantastic in this track. He shares verses with Lateef
, his partner in Latyrx
, whose flow is remarkable here as well. All in all, this is one of the best rap songs I’ve heard so far.
Two songs stand out on the very first listen, simply because they aren’t rap songs. ”I Changed My Mind”, a Lyrics Born
song featuring The Poets of Rhythm, is a stand-out track. It is more of a funk song than a hip-hop song, which makes it more accessible than most of the album. Lyrics Born
often semi-sings when he is rapping and his voice is very suited for funk/soul singing, The Poets of Rhythm create a cool backing, making this a fantastic song and highlight #2, truly a fantastic song and one of the best songs on the album. It has a really funky bassline, which is actually true for most of the album (Listen to ”Hott People”. It has a mother of a bassline). Less noticeable is the nonetheless groovy ”People Like Me” by Joyo Velarde
(who also sings on ”Jada’s Vengeance”), a good chill-out song, but not as spectacular as ”I Changed My Mind”, which follows it.
If the final song, ”Bombonyall” hadn’t been on the album, there might have been a case for saying that it lets up a little bit in the end. Thankfully, Bombonyall is there to wrap things up, and no such case can be made. This song is a typical boastful rap song, with a blunt, to-the-point, but very powerful chorus: (”Take that mother***ers here’s a bombonyall / Dynamite in the heat of the night I get raw / get the mike get creative and break the last straw / Doper than the dopest *** that you ever saw”). The chorus is fiery and catchy, and it really is a fantastic song. Highlight #3 and a perfect closer to the album.
I guess for a seasoned hip-hop listener, this review is pretty worthless. I’m not that knowledgeable in the genre, and can’t really tell if this is one of the best hip-hop albums ever recorded, simply because I haven’t listened to that many. I know a great album when I hear one though, and Quannum Spectrum is fantastic, and I urge everyone of you to listen to it, even if - no, scratch that - especially if you don’t particularly like hip-hop. I'm going to go out on a limb here, and give this album full marks, because it is a fantastic album, solid all the way through.
So give it a listen before you dismiss hip-hop altogether, and if you don’t like it, maybe you truly don’t have a shred of hip-hop in you.