Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Reviews:: Dragon Fli Empire - Redefine

I think Redefine, the new album from Calgary duo Dragon Fli Empire is now my favorite Alberta rap album. I know you're likely thinking "What do I care about what some dink in Halifax thinks about Alberta rap?". Well that's a logical question to ask, but what if I told you that I've become a go-to reviewer for Alberta hip hop, reviewing an inordinate number of Albertan albums over the last couple years? What? You still think I'm a dink? That seems harsh.

Anyway, regardless of where it ranks in my Alberta rap rankings, the MC/DJ tandem of Teekay and Cosm respectively have a great album on their hands. Here's why I like it so much: DFE have done the best job of anything I've heard recently, of capturing the spirit of the hip hop albums of the late 80's and early 90's that we all loved. I mean there's a reason we love all those old albums - like (some of) us, they are getting old now - '89 was twenty years ago, that is crazy stuff. Well, there are a number of reasons, but the main for me was the vibe of those old records, dudes were able to take what they were doing seriously, make good music, but still have fun with it. I think that with the current state of the world, we could stand to go back to that aesthetic a little bit. Hip hop could use more enthusiasm for the music and the culture, and less hardman, gun-talk.

It's obvious that DFE have plenty of enthusiasm for hip hop, and plenty of skill to translate that enthusiasm into really enjoyable, really listenable music. Cosm and Teekay inject their production with a jazzy, golden age sensibility that mixes thick basslines and knocking drum tracks with flourishes of other instruments like organs & piano to give it a modern feel. As I pointed out whilst reviewing their EP last year, DFE still utilize the DJ for scratching, not just loading the right track in iTunes, and that remains true on Redefine, so bonus points for that. Teekay also does fine work on the lyrical end of things - he's clearly a thoughtful guy, but he also has enough charisma to hold your attention whether he's breaking out the battle rap styles on a track like Just That Nice, or getting into storytelling mode on a song like Spanish Story.

There's goodness to be found right from the opening bell on Redefine, as DFE get the party started with the throwback goodness of Fastbreak, a zippy, sub-two minute jam with a nice fast-rap beat, which suits Teekay just fine as he wraps a couple nice verses around a scratch breakdown, and the afore-mentioned Just That Nice - another fun song built on a solid bassline and organ hits. It's hard to fron on a good road trip song, and Ride On is just that, with a big funky beat, some nice chunky horns, and a guest verse from Raashan Ahmad of the Crown City Rockers. Nothing shows the jazzy influence I mentioned earlier better than the title track, which uses a piano-filled track that almost reminds me of a laid-back version of the Dream Warriors, gameshow-theme jacked My Definition. It's a nice beat, and it provides the backdrop for Teekay to run down his story, and how he evolved into the MC is is today.

The excellent, Cadence Weapon featuring Outside Inn was included on DFE's EP, and our Alberta mixtape, and my enthusiasm for it's marching band drum rolls and funky geetars hasn't dimmed. Paradise is a floaty jam about putting life in perspective, and it also features the hardest working man in the Canadian rap-biz, Moka Only, who is in fine form on the opening verse and some chorus croonage. The new-style rap-house of Floor To The Roof seems to be somewhat in vogue in Canadian hip hop, but this is kind of a reserved version of that style, and it works. Watch Ya Front is a jazzy track dedicated to haters and hardheads in the club, and the guest-verse done by Halifax's favorite Martinez, Josh, kind of reminds me of De La's The Art of Getting Jumped. If you like hip hop, I think you're required to like Rise, which features a nice verse from revered vet Masta Ace ("on any kind of beat, I be hyped to speak, cause my daughter needs some things, and clothes are expensive, I use a level of care when I write that's intensive" - Ace is still great).

So Redefine is my favorite Alberta rap album, but is it also currently my favorite Canadian hip hop album? Yes it is. I know the year is young, but I feel confident that it will rank near the top when '09 come to a close and I compile my "Best of Canadian Hip Hop List" (doing it for sure this year Ack, promise!). But there's no need to wait for that, if you find yourself in the need of some throwback hip hop done in a thoroughly modern way, go get yourself acquainted with Dragon Fli Empire.

Dragon Fli Empire ft. Cadence Weapon - Outside Inn

Keep The Funk Alive


Posted at 3:23 PM by naedoo :: 0 comments

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