As a production crew, The Shinin’ come on like talent scouts, locating fresh voices from up and down the U.S. west coast to front the beats on the Director’s Cut EP. MCs PM and Universal kick things off on “Monsterous,” a “this is who we are/ this is how we rhyme/ this is why you’re whack” cut that’s saved from been-there-done-that dismissal by the fact that both of these guys can really deliver the goods. With the slightly nasally PM contrasting perfectly with deep, smooth delivery of Universal, “Monsterous” is less a battle cry than a statement of self-assurance by a couple of guys from L.A. who say that its okay to smoke weed and not be an asshole.
“Come Alive,” with its twinkling Fender Rhodes notes enlivening the otherwise pretty standard canned beats, brings Dr. Oops into the party for another round of extravagant introductions and assurances that they can elucidate the groove. On “Who Knows,” it is Seattle’s Samson S. and producer Vitamin D turn to tell the people why their approach is superior, classically putting down one DJ’s cut selection with the line “...it was killin’ the mood like Black Flag.”
When things switch from bravado to consciousness raising on “Stereotypical,” we get told that people need to be judged as individuals rather than in terms of what they look like or seem like. Nice, but a long way from earthshaking. Tired beats and simple moralizing make the track sound like unconsidered homespun wisdom trying to sound radical, which is a bit disappointing. To me, if you want to challenge the way people think you can’t simply wrap the message, as simple and true as it is, in a package that is indistinguishable from any other tune that is out there. If you want to challenge stereotypes, you can’t call on cliché to do it.
Overall, while its obvious that None and Take One, the duo that are The Shinin’, are able to hook up with talented folks to collaborate with them, it doesn’t seem enough to just lay down the beat, scratch a bit, and hope that everyone will think you’re great. Here’s to hoping that the likes of PM and Universal will want to give them another shot at doing it up with something that surprises and challenges us rather than just leaning on the beat box and letting it all happen.
// Notes from the Road
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