Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Reviews:: Modulok - Cities And Years

It seems somehow fitting that although this is the third album involving Toronto MC Modulok that I've reviewed in a relatively short timespan, I've only now realized that Modulok was also the name of a He-Man villain. I say fitting because Cities and Years appears to be the most revealing record Modulok has put out to date. Certainly Moe's lyrics on this album have more interesting things to reveal than a connection to a popular 80's cartoon, but the comparison works for my purposes.

You know what else works? This album. I have to say, if a young MC were to ask me what a hip hop album should look like in '09, this is the one I might point to now. It's eight songs of straight forward hip hop goodness: no fifty guests and no un-necessary gun talk or forced, tight-pants hipster rap nonsense. Solid beats and thoughtful rhymes are enough for me. I know this isn't enough for most folks these days, but it really should be.

Cities and Years also does something not enough albums do these days: its opening song sets the pace for the rest of the album. Cool and Deadly has a laid back, yet thumping, beat, which is augmented with some guitar licks and scratched snippets of classic hip hop tracks, laced with some contemplative lyrics from Modulok (and Apollo Creed on this song, who I enjoyed after first encountering him on his last outing with Modulok. He drops "stay gold Ponyboy", which should also endear him to the Ack). I have to admit, this kind of hip hop is pretty much exactly in my wheelhouse - the Premier-esque, 90's combo of rugged drums and scratched samples, so if you can do it well in this day & age, I'm on board. Modulok and producer Leon Murphy, who I think produced this whole album, have done it really, really well here.

I think I'll go out on a limb and say Your Boyfriends' A Cokehead might be one of the better hip hop songs you'll hear this year. The almost comical name is in contrast to the wistful, almost sorrowful, tone of the song, created by the mournful horns and Moes lyrics that find him opening up about his wish that the object of his affection would drop her sniffy boyfriend and let him take his spot.

Your boyfriend got a flimsy handshake.
Your boyfriend dresses like Justin Timberlake.
Your boyfriend won't take you to rap shows.
Your boyfriend snorts white shit up his nose


I can't do the lyrics justice without Modulok's deadpan, matter-of-fact delivery of them, but this is really a great song in my humble. As is the confessional A Certain Time Of The Day, built on a static-y bed of thumping drums and twinkly piano loops, it is certainly a more personal view of Modulok as more than an MC - admitting he feels down from time to time, but hip hop and the buzz of the city pulls him out of his funk.

Honestly, just listening to the cut-up samples in Timewalker (Jay, DOOM and (I think) The Grand Wizard Ghettosocks!) and Miserable Existentialist (Mobb Deep, Mos Def, and an awesome Cee-Lo Green) makes me very, very happy, but the beats and rhymes on both are also really solid, so it's win-win. Album closer Keep Moving offers some light-hearted hip hop life philosophy from Moe, Apollo Creed, and Abyss, but I have to say, I think Apollo steals the show with his Blueprint-esque flow.

Quite often we say things here like "I hope this album reaches a lot of ears", but in this case I mean it in spades. I'm not sure how well-know Modulok is in Canada, outside of Toronto, but he and his crew at Takaba Records are doing the kind of hip hop purists are always clamoring for, so here's hoping they reach as many ears as possible. You should do your part and get a copy of Cities and Years.

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Posted at 12:42 PM by naedoo :: 0 comments

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