Dominic Jacobson takes a swing at hip-hop and scores with this well-balanced, deeply enjoyable treat. So why did Kid Gloves spend 2005 as a Japan-only import?
It's just another example of the perversity of the US record business that Kid Gloves spent the last year as a Japan-only import. The third long-player from England's Lindo (aka Modaji, aka Dominic Jacobson) deserves to be heard everywhere music is played. It's a smart, concise, impeccably-produced hip-hop/soul record that, thanks to Compost, can now be properly appreciated.
Most of Jacobson's previous work has been associated with house and so-called "nu-jazz", but Kid Gloves puts the hip-hop up front. However, Lindo sounds like a natural, dropping crisp, sturdy rhythms that come booming out of the speakers. Of course, the rapping has to be good, too. Lindo doesn't disappoint, bringing in talents from the US and UK to fill out his musical sketches. Add some refreshing, soulful tunes featuring Phillipa Alexander and a few trippy instrumentals for change-of-pace, and you have the complete package -- an album that continues to satisfy without trying to be something it's really not.
Lindo's beats fit their respective lyrics snugly. Intentionally or otherwise, the loose theme of the album is overcoming difficult circumstances, focusing on the positive when you have a choice. Guest rappers Lacks, Count Bass D, and Maspyke's Tableek & Hanif don't necessarily drop lyrical bombs -- their verses are generally free of the snappy witticisms and pop-culture references. And some indie hip-hop standbys like boasting and ragging on the mainstream record industry, are present. But that doesn't mean that they're not worth listening to, or are not entertaining. You can put this down to strong, unique flows and Lindo's knack for hooky, mood-setting samples to enhance each track.
Probably the best thing here is "Rugged Individuals", with Bass D's rapid-fire flow, a slinky double bass, and Delta blues chorus. You also have the somber optimism of "Tomorrow's World" featuring Lacks, and the easy-going, dreamlike "The Here and Now", with Tableek & Hanif. "This Lonely Girl" touches on another theme that's hardly new to progressive hip-hop -- the lost girl from the street -- but does so with an almost literary sympathy: "Heart full of coal / Thinking 'bout her boyfriend who was way too old for her". The past tense is a nice touch; this girl may be holding on, but the guy is gone. Lindo's lightly jazzy backing track conveys the appropriate mixture of resignation and hope.
Not all of Kid Gloves is so heavy, though. Take, for example, the pointed G-Funk of "Slow Decay", or any of the trio of tracks featuring Alexander. The effortless, uplifting chord progression of "Gameshow", in particular, hits that melodic sweet-spot. Of course, no indie hip-hop/trip-hop album would be complete without a silly sampled monologue about UFOs and time machines, hence "Miller's Lattice". This and the pair of other tracks without guest vocalists are the least consequential on an otherwise-great album, confirming that Lindo needs someone to bring out the best in his production.
Still, Kid Gloves is that rare hip-hop album that's great for pure, top-down listening and late-night contemplation. And dancing, for that matter. In its scope, theme, and cohesive blend of styles, it's reminiscent of King Britt's better work. With most of the dozen tracks getting in and out in under three minutes, it's refreshing in its brevity as well. Albums like Kid Gloves are what "repeat" buttons were invented for.