Like Manna from heaven, so arrives KOOL A.D.'s second mix tape of 2012, 51. For those keeping track, I'm a big, big fan of Das Racist, the Hip-Hop duo/trio (does a hype-man count as a member?) to which A.D. belongs, but it's been a rough road for the boys of late. 2011 saw their proper debut, Relax, received an enormous critical shrug, and while Heems' 2012 tape, Nehru Jackets, proved a solid effort, KOOL's accompanying collection, The Palm-Wine Drinkard, was an auto-tuned, tuneless mess. Perhaps aware that his legion of fans would rather hear him flow than do whatever you'd say he's doing Drinkard, the man known as Victor Vazquez dropped 51 just this last Tuesday, less than four months removed from his previous miss-step. As someone who feared that Drinkard was a sign of things to come, 51 sounds like candy to the ears, trading in the bombastic production that the whole group has favored of late for sunny, West-Coast Lo-Fi. Don't believe me? Check out that smile-inducing Supremes sample on No, or the slow-down jam Arrested Development, fully equip with one of the funniest film-director references I've ever heard. The whole thing was clearly put together in a short and very recent period of time: There's a reference to an episode of South Park that aired April 4th, as well as a shout-out to Jack White's debut album with which 51 shares a release date. This tight timing robs the 22-track mix of some consistency, but when KOOL gets it started, there's no denying him.
While I've had H&C for the better part of 2012, I wasn't quite ready to recommend it until just now. The knock against it? Well, let's just call it junk food. Q's raps are almost always glaringly profane, and even more frequently devoid of any real consequence. The guy can certainly flow, but sometimes gets caught up in yelling single phrases for entire back halves of tracks. So why recommend it at all? Because, as of this writing, I'm hopelessly addicted to the thing. The beats here are just plain extraordinary, from the cold, dense, foreboding Nightmare of Figg St., to a shockingly natural sample of Portland's own Menomena on There He Go. Schoolboy is not without his shining moments on top of these stunning beats: Hands on the Wheel sees him trading ferocious verses with A$AP Rocky, while minimal opener Sacrilegious clears out space for the MC to take over. That said, one listen to Druggy Wit Hoes Again clarifies why we're really here: For one thunderous, party-ready beat after another.
On Second Thought...
The OF Tape Vol. 2---Odd Future
If it's not obvious already, April has been a Hip-Hop heavy month in my head phones, which has allowed me to revisit Odd Future's March release. My initial review was positive, but it lacked the extensive exposure that time has permitted. Vol. 2 has grown on me tremendously, thanks in large part to a greater appreciation for the varied contributions and styles of its many MC's. Mike G, for example, only gets one feature on the whole disc, but he makes the most of it with badass gem Green Forest. Domo Genesis isn't forced into the same economy, his flow more distinct and confident with each listen, no track proving this more than the positively scintillating Doms. Then there's Hcad, and Sam (Is Dead), and... you get the idea. Father time has changed my opinion, something that happens not infrequently, and might just spawn a consistent feature in the monthly Leftovers section. Either way, I've come to realize that Vol. 2 deserves more credit than I initially gave it, and today, I remedy that mistake.