Off UK’s legendary label Barely Breaking Even, DJ Spinna‘s latest full-length Here to There is a part of BBE’s Beat Generation series, a collection of producer-led albums where the guest artists involved have complete creative freedom. You see, for the series, BBE picks a prolific and influential producer to make an album, and in turn that producer picks artists to guest on said album. It’s a good idea and ultimately these collaborations lead to aggressive lyrics laid over innovative beats. As expected, the tracks on Spinna’s Here to There are no exception. With a number of excellent MC’s on hand, the DJ/producer/remixer delivers an album that meets his fans’ expectations as well as pleasing those of us who aren’t exactly well versed in the world of hip-hop.
The series began in February 2001 with Jay Dee’s Welcome to Detroit and has since flourished with releases from Pete Rock, DJ Jazzy Jeff, Will.I.Am (of Black Eyed Peas fame) and, most recently, Philly’s King Britt. And though Britt’s Adventures in Lo-Fi has gotten mixed reviews, his record, as well as Spinna’s, carries on the Beat Generation tradition by featuring a producer’s talent to traverse over various sounds, molding them into a simply smooth hip-hop LP.
DJ Spinna, quite naturally, belongs in the Beat Generation hall of fame. Spinning since the ‘80s, he has shown his prowess at producing and remixing by working with a bevy of mainstream and underground artists, earning the respect of both his colleagues and hip-hop fans alike. Born Vincent Williams, Spinna has dealt with and remixed everyone from big namers like Mos Def, George Michael, and Mary J. Blige to underground acts 4 Hero and DJ Krush. In 2001, his underground rep only burgeoned with the release of the Jigmastas’ record Infectious, off his own Beyond Real Recordings.
On Here to There, Spinna delves into R&B, jazz, hip-hop, electro, and Latin beats, churning out a record that blends all these genres into one cohesive album. Like the rest of the series producers, the Brooklyn-based and -raised DJ has made his Beat Generation disc an opportunity to showcase his countless influences. Opening track “Alfonso’s Thang” featuring Tiklah introduces the 76-minute LP with some free flow while outro “The Originator” dances on a Caribbean island sound. Spinna busts out classic London breakbeats on “Love Is Sold” and “Galactic Soul” reveals a spacey futuristic sound. Vocalists Vinia Mojica (“Idols”) and Angela Johnson (“Glad You’re Mine”) add in a little R&B to the mix and Shaun Escoffery, Britain’s next big thing, lends his Brit-soul voice to the dance vibe of “Music in Me (Come Alive)”.
The most lyrically hard-hitting track on the LP is “Fly or Burn” featuring the Bedouin. Referencing everyone and everything from Kennedy to Dick Cheney, the Sierra Leone civil war to Iraq, the Bedouin manages to incorporate some of the politics of these tough times into Here To There. Just a sampling of his challenging rhymes: “It’s time to awaken / For how can you sleep so comfortably in your bed / When all around the world, blood is being shed / Don’t you know if one bleeds, we all bleed / If one needs, we all need”. Throughout the song, Bedouin repeatedly demands “We’re at the point of no return / History’s repeating / Fly or burn”, which, considering the current international climate, could reference Operation Iraqi Freedom. His words, intentional or not, proves the powerful voice hip-hop has in the world.
However important lyrics are, the Beat Generation series is about the producer and not the MC. With Here to There, DJ Spinna’s talent for combining hip-hop, jazz and electro—a talent that’s made him a valued name in the industry—is once spotlighted. Each song flows nicely into the next, making Here to There a record that is as accessible to hardcore hip-hop lovers as it is to people who simply like a good beat.