Since 2001, Quantic (nee Will Holland) has been releasing albums, singles, and collaborations that span virtually every musical genre. From his indie hip-hop work under his own name to his salsa collaborations with the Candela All-Stars to his neo-soul work with Spanky Wilson to his mambo songs with his Combo Barbaro, Quantic has experimented with every style of dance and club music imaginable. The only constants have been his intricate arrangements, his uncanny skill at recreating any style of music he attempts with impeccable precision, and his gift for catchy hooks and impressive melodies. Quantic‘s best-known work is probably his collaboration with Nickodemus and the Candela All-Stars, “Mi Swing Es Tropical”, which was used in a famous iPod commercial. As enjoyable as that song was, however, it only scratches the surface of just how much music Quantic has been responsible for.
Because his catalog is so vast, it would be hard for a curious listener to figure out just where to begin in order to appreciate Quantic’s work. That’s why The Best of Quantic is superb: It’s so perfectly chosen and sequenced that this is the Quantic album to begin with. It begins with “Time is the Enemy” (from Quantic’s first album The 5th Exotic), providing a taste of his underground hip-hop style, and then the Caribbean swing of “Ciudad Del Swing”. It then hits all of the high points, from the Cuban mambo of “Linda Morena” to the Aretha-Franklin-style soul of “I’m Thankful (Part 1)”. You’ll get to hear the reggae/salsa of “Dog With a Rope” (from Quantic Presenta Flowering Inferno’s Dog With a Rope), the cumbia rearrangement of KRS-One’s hip-hop track “Step Into a World (Rapture’s Delight)”, a dub version of “Echate Pa’lla” (also from Dog With a Rope), and the straight-ahead, sample-heavy hip-hop of “Life In the Rain”. At two densely packed discs, it’s hard not to argue that this is indeed the best of Quantic, selecting the most notable tracks from his sizable oeuvre and distilling them into a package that has no dead spots or filler. Of course, the full-length version of “Mi Swing Es Tropical” is included, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg in exploring Quantic’s music.
What’s also important is how the set sequences the material. It would have been easy to lump all the hip-hop songs in one batch, all the Latin-influenced songs in another, and so on. That, however, would have done a huge disservice to Quantic’s music by making it easy for listeners to skip genres they don’t like. Instead, by slamming the different styles together, the album makes it easy to see the connections between Quantic’s genres. The way the album is sequenced, you can hear how the leftfield beats of the Limp Twins are clearly related to the live funk jams of the Quantic Soul Orchestra and how the disco/underground hip-hop production that Quantic does under his own name isn’t so far apart from the Caribbean dance music of Quantic Presenta Flowering Inferno.
The set also come with some rarities for hardcore fans. The “Slow Version” of “New Morning” from Quantic and his Conjunto Barbaro (previously only available on the out-of-print 12” single of “Un Canto a Mi Tierra”) is compiled here for the first time. It’s worth hearing, as the new slower arrangement fits the song’s melody even better than the original. There’s also the salsa/disco/reggae fusion of “Sol Clap”, taken from the multi-artist anthology Nickodemus Presents Turntables On The Hudson Volume 8: Reflecting Cielo, a song so daring that it somehow works even despite itself. There are also two new songs: the klezmer-meets-dub “Cumbia Clash” (billed simply as Quantic) and “Left & Right”, a previously unreleased soul-funk jam from the Quantic Soul Orchestra with Alice Russell that’s easily the equal of anything released previously under that name. These are the tracks that are meant to entice the collectors who have most of the songs here, but what’s noteworthy is that none of the rarities or new tracks seem like throwaways — they all fit so seamlessly in with the other songs that newcomers would never be able to pick them out as one-offs. It’s another indication of just how meticulous Quantic is as an artist that even his outtakes and b-sides are no lesser than his album tracks.
Ultimately, it’s that level of craftsmanship that makes The Best of Quantic essential. Quantic is not a dilettante, interested in eclecticism for its own sake — these are all genres and styles that he loves and respects, and he treats them with the care and detail they deserve. That dedication shines through on every track on this set, demonstrating without a doubt that he warrants all the acclaim and credit. Longtime fans may quibble over a missing selection or two, but in every regard, this truly is the best of Quantic, recommended for anyone interested in hearing one of the most remarkable producers and musicians of the last decade.