Friday, December 7, 2007

Reviews:: Arabesque - Hang Your Heroes

Normally I don't review mixtapes. It's not simply the fact that the name is misleading (who still buys mixtapes in cassette format?), but quite often the mixtapes that are most worth hearing are simply advance previews of an upcoming album, and in that case I'll always just wait and review the actual release. However, when a top-notch Canadian MC comes along with a quality release in the form of a digital-only mixtape/EP, that's a different story. In this case, the MC I'm referring to is Toronto's Arabesque, and the relase would be his Hang Your Heroes which drops on Dec. 11th.

As the title, and the intro with clips about Martin Luther King, Lennon, and Selena might suggest, the theme of this album is society's rater nasty habit of cutting down its most loved inhabitants. Or as Arabesque puts it: "A conceptual project on how the world builds you up to beat the shit out of you". And he would know a little something about the world laying the smackdown on you, as he lost his girlfriend to a car-crash a couple years ago. Music allowed Besque to work through his grief after the accident, and his first album, the Juno nominated The Frenzy of Renown was the end result of his new-found focus.

The Frenzy of Renown was really a solid, enjoyable album. I heard some songs from it on the radio when I was still living in Toronto and I was so impressed by them that I had to track the album down. That's mainly thanks to Arabesque, he has a great presence on the mic, with plenty of charisma and clever lyrics delivered in a memorable way. That mainly continues on Hang Your Heroes, with some solid tracks to be found over the first half of the album, interspersed with interludes done by the first lady of the Flipmode Squad, Rah Digga. The last half of the album is a little uneven, with a few songs that sound like Besque is trying to bring back the Rap-House steez of the late 80's. I suppose the indie kids spent last year trying to bring back new wave, so fairplay to Besque for trying to bring back rap-house. The songs aren't really bad per-se, they just aren't my cup of tea.

But as I said, the album starts strong, as Arabesque laments the state of his love-life since he lost his girlfriend ("coffee grinds and cigarettes with a taste of decadence") on Lines Of Love. The Anonymous Twist-produced track, which features a funky plucked bass line and some soulful female vocals, suits Besques' introspective mood perfectly. Marlboro Man might be my favorite song on the album, as it's a great showcase of Arabesque's appeal: plenty of clever lines delivered with a cadence that leaves you wanting to hear more. Plus he calls Bush "President John Wayne" and drops "hire Mathew Knowles to clean toilet bowls" in the same song. End Of The World opens with Besque killing its catchy, bouncy beat ("I was born a recluse, the son of Zeus, I tied my own noose at the hands of they abuse"), before giving way to Beres Hammond's buttery vocals. Just downright enjoyable.

Arabesque is a Canadian of Palestinian descent, and although you would think that a "Palestinian-rapper" gimmick would be an easy one to ride to notoriety, Besque stays far way from any kind of gimmickry. That's not to say he doesn't address his heritage and the issues faced by his people in an intelligent manner on songs like Politics of The Blaow. Stick A Match Screwed is, as it's name would imply, slowed down in the tradition of DJ Screw, yet it is not chopped as far as I can tell. The chopped bit shows up on How To Chop An Arab, which scratches up a record that is apparently a how-to for trolling slimmies in Arabic. In A Bottle is one of the rap-house tracks I discussed, but it's full of clever lines which flip the names of drinks, and it also contains the line "Her man's a pint size Prince of Wales, a shot of champagne, a rusty nails". I don't know what that means exactly, but I enjoy it.

Anyway, that's a lot of talk for someone who says they don't review mixtapes. Main point is this, if you aren't familiar with Arabesque, this is a good introduction. If you liked his last album, as I did, you won't be disappointed by this at all. Check out Hang Your Heroes when it drops next week.

MP3:: Arabesque - Marlboro Man

MP3:: Arabesque & Beres Hammond - End Of The World

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Posted at 10:25 AM by naedoo :: 0 comments

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