Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Reviews:: Modulok & Bare Beats - Two Cities

Toronto's Modulok has the kind of dark, angry MC-style that normally I wouldn't really be drawn to. But after reviewing a couple projects he's been involved with this year (Omega Point, the latest release from Red Ants, his collabo with Toronto producer Vincent Price, and his appearance on Hand'Solo Records' mixtape this past summer), he's certainly won me over. The man who "might look like a Lebanese skinhead", according to the bio for his latest album, is one of the more interesting MC's to come out of Toronto recently, at least in my humble, so I was looking forward to checking out his latest release - a collabo with London (UK) producer Bare Beats entitled Two Cities.

Happily, Two Cities met my expectations with ease. In fact, it would only be fair to say it exceeded my expectations considering I knew nothing about Bare Beats and what kind of UK flavour he would bring to the table. Turns out the Bare Beats flavour tastes more of universal hip hop goodness, then anything really UK specific. His production is subtle, yet engaging, with a dusty, jazzy sound that he tweaks to add ominous, upbeat, or eerie elements to, depending upon what the song needs. It would be negligent not to mention the contribution of UK turntable wiz Jabba Tha Kut, who make an appearance on a handful of songs, adding precise cuts of vintage hip hop samples. Musically, this album is very enjoyable.

Which isn't to say that Two Cities doesn't deliver on the lyrical end, it certainly does. Modulok is an MC whose flow and lyrics come across as emotional and honest, yet with a definite edge. And not a "look at me, I rap and I'm hard!" studio edge, but one that's been forged through his experiences coming of age in Toronto's gritty east end. Every song on this album has a simple, one word title (City, Taste, People etc.), and for the most part they deal with the main factors in Modulok's daily life. But this isn't any whiny emo-ish rap that finds him bearing his soul about the things that make him sad, it's more a roll call of issues lining up to get mashed over the head with a lyrical bat.

The album opens in a rather un-expected way, with an Intro featuring Modulok rhyming over a beatbox (provided by Wireless? A British beatboxer I assume? The google, it tells me nothing), but the combo works better than I would've guessed. The fantastic dusty horn loop on City would've got it a passing grade from me on it's own, but Modulok is joined by excellent T.O. MC Apollo Creed in this love/hate ode to the city they call home. Also bonus points go to the awesome Show & AG sample scratched in and the morphing of the drum loop into a heavier sound for the last minute. These solid little details make excellent hip hop songs. Trouble meshes uptempo drums with an upright bassline and faded horns in the background. It also features the only vocal work from Bare Beats bredren in the form of guest verses from Perry Scaramanga, Kal Sereousz and Smokey. Hard hitting drums provide the backdrop for Modulok & Barracuda to cook up a dangerous dish for fake MC's on Taste, which ends with some f-bomb laced banter featuring Gordon Ramsey - the word twat is certainly not heard enough in hip hop.

The beat behind Stories feels kind of uptempo and positive, yet at the same time mournful, which is likely due to the French-cafe sounding accordion riff it contains. It seems to be the perfect fit for Modulok's and his reminiscence of old friends, as it feels like he's looking back on them fondly, but the outcome of each story isn't necessarily positive. Assassin is a bit of a conceptual change of pace, with Modulok playing the role of an ex-emcee turned contract killer over a track featuring a tidy drum loop and cacophonous piano stabs (perhaps his vision of a future career switch? If so remember the fine folks at herohill gave you a hearty thumbs up!).

In summation, this is an excellent hip hop album. It does pretty much everything I think you should at this point: keeps things brief (eleven solid songs, although only ten are listed on the album itself), limits guest appearances (only three songs feature guest MC's), and it matches the MC with quality production that matches his style and fosters a consistent feel throughout the album. Fans of good, traditional hip hop should absolutely check out this album, no matter what side of the pond they live on.

myspace :: label :: buy album

Posted at 4:00 PM by naedoo :: 0 comments

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