Adult Swim began producing and rehashing absurdist adult cartoons since early autumn of the year of 2001. The network became the late night version of Cartoon Network, playing a fitting Yang to the CN’s blend of comic mischief and bright animation. The release of The Mouse and The Mask, a Danger Mouse and MF DOOM collaboration album that payed homage to Adult Swim’s classic Aqua Teen Hunger Force opened up a new door for the cartoon tour de force, a musical one. On October 3rd 2006 the Adult Swim/Stones Throw Records compilation, Chrome Children dropped, it was a combination of indie hip-hop and neo funk, losing The Mouse and the Mask’s comic sensibility, but gaining hard hitting beats and some fantastic lyricism. Though the comp. was originally just supposed to be a collection of b-sides, every song fits together so well, you would probably never know. The album is a fun, dark and drugged out look at some of Stones Throw’s best (and worst) musicians that never falls off the right track.
The first classic track off the CD comes in Guilty Simpson’s powerful break beat club banger, Clap Your Hands. Simpson delivers Eminem quality lyrics through a gruff E-40 style deep moan. “It’s a fact that if your black you don’t know how to act when your belly buttons behind your back” and “I got two birds, and ones my middle finger and trust me that’s the friendly one” are some of his finest moments on the track, but like many Stones Throw songs, the minimalist production really brings it home. The two major producers on this, Madlib and J Dilla do a fantastic job bringing each song an urban, but danceable side to each track. Experienced and legendary producer, Madlib surprises, putting his own track in the hands of J Dilla, instead of doing the production himself. Unfortunately the song ends up being a bit of a dud anyway. Dilla’s surprisingly heavy mainstream edge is forgone for an annoying, weak chicken dance beat. Madlib has said again and again “I’m a producer first, DJ second and MC last” and proves this to be true when his mumbly, slurred rhymes fail to save the track. Dilla’s own solo track is a psychedelic trip-hop electronica jam entitled Nothing Like This, which features no more vocals than a sample repeating “I’ve never been quite like this” and ‘It’s never been quite like this”. It’s an enjoyable track that redeems Dilla’s name as a smart and interesting face in production.
Chrome Children is actually, despite my original thoughts, more of a soul record than anything. It mixes many genres, from R&B to Indie Rap and Electronica, but each keeps a slightly soulful outlook. MF Doom makes (unfortunately enough) his only appearance on the actual record with the trippy Madvillain space-hop jam Monkey Sweet. Madlib gets his first production credit with the Monkey Suite’s slow, glacial break beat, complete with airy, oddly effected electric piano and mixed and remixed bass. The song is a stand out from the rap bits of the album, and even the whole record. Doom blows out rhymes like smoke from the nostrils of a true rap guru. Madlib also delivers a much more Quasimoto style beat on Raw Heat, a Percee P (sounds like a black Atmosphere) track, featuring the Alfish octave-too-high stoner throwing down his trade mark high pitched choruses and a fancy intro verse. Other tracks, like Monkey Suite follow-up Simply A Joy (by Georgia Ann Muldrow) stay along the lines of a true, classic slow jam. Giddy, loving lyrics sung through Georgia’s strong, classy and deliciously vintage voice make up most of the track’s flavor, which sounds like what Outkast wanted to do with their new record, an old-school soul track that would appeal to the fickle college neo-soul crowd. Other soul tracks take a much darker, more compact look into the brooding mind of a modern R&B cat. Dudley Perkins’ Whussup World sounds exactly like an early morning walk through Brooklyn would, if it was a scary 1930’s influenced Rhythm and Blues tune.
The best song on the CD though comes in the producer on producer clash of J Dilla and Madlib’s No $ No Toke (under the moniker Jaylib). The tune features Dilla in an almost post Marley state of Reggae bliss over Lib’s uncharacteristically Layered melodic beat. The beat for the song is essentially hundreds of guitars played the same effected melody of a swirling mass of samples and kick drums and it’s some of Madlib’s best work on the LP. Then come the last five tracks. They all take on some strand of Jazz , from 70’s inspired funk tracks to acid Jazz and beyond. While some suffer from annoying vocals, others suffer even more from a lack of vocals. Songs like Dream(s) (by Gary Wilson) would sound great in some no-name disco, but sort of ruin the end of the album for me, though if there’s any light in this horrifying quintet it would Third Rock (A Pure Essence number). It almost begs to be heard alone, in the dark on a dance floor. The feel is so distinct, with a dark and oddly satisfying male voice moaning, singing and yelling in the background. The rest of the album’s ending is pretty horrible, or maybe just too intensely Avant for me, I’m not really sure. Either way I don’t like it. Over all Chrome Children is a fresh and exciting grab bag of the good, the bad and the gangster, a CD to be enjoyed by any fan of the genre.