Music

Will.i.am: Lost Change

Maurice Bottomley

Will.i.am

Lost Change

Label: BBE
US Release Date: 2001-09-25
Amazon
iTunes

BBE have chosen this year, not one that will be remembered for its hip-hop classics, to launch their would-be-definitive Beatmasters series. BBE collections carry a good deal of critical weight behind them and the label had hoped to make the same mark in this area that they have done with their rare groove, dance and jazz releases. Reaction has been positive, but hardly ecstatic, although the criticisms raised have been more to do with the genre itself than the individual producers that have been showcased.

This is the third release under the banner (Jay Dee and Pete Rock kicked the project off, a Marley Marl is out now and DJ Spinna, Jazzy Jeff and King Britt are all to follow). The general concept was to give each producer greater freedom than is usual and to concentrate on the beats more than the rhymes. Each artist has interpreted the brief differently. The problem has been that the standard of rapping has not always impressed, yet take the lyricists away and the purely instrumental work (Pete Rock's particularly) has been judged to be somewhat dull. As Will.i.am's set is a mixture of vocal and non-vocal cuts it is probably the most balanced in the series and serves as a pretty good gauge of the strengths and weakness of hip-hop 2001 style.

Of the above mentioned producers, Will.i.am's is probably the least well known and certainly his contribution to rap history hardly matches those of the others involved. For the record, he is the "beat master" behind Black Eyed Peas, that likeable but fairly lightweight California outfit. However, he shows himself more than up to the task and delivers a more boundary-crossing set than might have been expected. Plenty of different forms are represented, including jazz, funk, ragga and electronica, while the lyrical approaches range from fairly hardcore to some old school chant-alongs.

There is an emphasis on live instrumentation, the album's trump card, and had the quality of the rapping been up to that of the playing this would have been a very distinguished venture. Even as it stands, the better tracks are forceful enough to suggest that those who are suggesting that hip-hop is a spent force creatively may be seriously misguided. Perhaps it tries to cover too many bases, but over-stretching is surely more laudable than sticking to a narrow format, something recent material has tended to do.

A breezy opener, "Ev Rehbahdee", featuring current favourites Planet Asia suggests a party, hands-in-the-air session, that is as enjoyable as it is misleading. This has real bounce (although the lyrics are a little tired). Then there is the moody "Lay Me Down" with a vocodered Terry Dexter and a neo-soul feel -- the most complete track on offer and one that should get a wider hearing. The next two are a bit hit and miss. An all too brief cod, rasta-reggae track "Possessions" and a trip-hop instrumental (sitar and rock guitar) give some idea of the wide spectrum of sounds Will.i.am wants to explore but are hardly mind-blowing. Next up, Mike Myers gives "If You Didn't Know" plenty of gangsta attitude and is as dull as that implies. It leads into a catchy, uptempo number, "Money", which is a would be deep message rap that doesn't completely come off. The arrangement, however, is exemplary, with a particularly haunting female chorus and a great horn section. The use of trumpet and sax is a highlight throughout the album. The title track is a good example, having an almost mariachi feel to it but laid over a spacey, electronic groove. Will.i.am shows himself to be a pretty useful Hammond and general keyboard practitioner. It is at this point that you start to realise that this would have been better as an all instrumental project, with maybe the odd backing vocal.

Will.i.am himself, Medusa and Madd Dogg take control of the rhymes for the remaining tracks, with adequate but uninspiring results. Increasingly the words seem to get in the way of some adept playing -- this is a good band. The non-vocal cuts -- "Lost Change" in D and then E Minor, "Yadda Yadda" and the lovely, jazz-drenched "Control Tower" -- all work so well, the redundancy of the rap artists becomes embarrassing. It may be that I have just lost interest in the shouting that makes up most contemporary hardcore rap -- certainly a more laid back set of guests would have helped. Whatever the reason, it is Michael Angelo (bass), George Pijon (guitar)and Printz Board (trumpet) who are the names I'll be checking for in the future and not the MCs.

Ears less troubled by current mike styles will enjoy the CD as a whole. Will.i.am himself is a revelation as arranger and producer. Lost Change certainly is no disgrace to the series, either in its aims or its execution. I just wish there had been at least one outstanding example of the rhymer's art. Still, those who questioned Will.i.am's worthiness to take part in this prestigious and important series will be surprised at the enterprise and craftsmanship he demonstrates. Even though it is flawed, it stands as rebuttal to the argument that hip-hop has lost interest in sounds and structure and is totally about image. There is an exploratory, if somewhat ambling, for-its-own-sakedness on show here. This is something that has characterised this series and, it has to be said, precious few rap offerings in the last 12 months. Persuasive and patchy in about equal proportions, it still makes most mainstream output look crass and opportunistic.

The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

Keep reading... Show less

Electronic music is one of the broadest-reaching genres by design, and 2017 highlights that as well as any other year on record. These are the 20 best albums.


20. Vitalic - Voyager (Citizen)

Pascal Arbez-Nicolas (a.k.a. Vitalic) made waves in the French Touch electro-house scene with his 2005 debut, OK Cowboy, which had a hard-hitting maximalist sound, but several albums later, Voyager finds him launching into realms beyond at his own speed. The quirky, wallflower vocals and guitar snippets employed throughout Voyager drop a funk that brings to mind WhoMadeWho or Matthew Dear if they had disco-pop injected between their toes. "Levitation" is as pure a slice of dance floor motivation as theoretically possible, a sci-fi gunfight with a cracking house beat sure to please his oldest fans, yet the album-as-form is equally effective in its more contemplative moments, like when Miss Kitten's vocals bring an ethereal dispassion to "Hans Is Driving" to balance out its somber vocoder or the heartfelt cover of "Don't Leave Me Now" by Supertramp. Voyager may infect you with a futuristic form of Saturday Night Fever, but afterwards, it gives you a hearty dose of aural acetaminophen to break it. - Alan Ranta


Keep reading... Show less
Film

Hitchcock, 'Psycho', and '78/52: Hitchcock's Shower Scene'

Alfred Hitchock and Janet Leigh on the set of Psycho (courtesy of Dogwoof)

"... [Psycho] broke every taboo you could possibly think of, it reinvented the language of film and revolutionised what you could do with a story on a very precise level. It also fundamentally and profoundly changed the ritual of movie going," says 78/52 director, Alexandre O. Philippe.

The title of Alexandre O. Philippe's 78/52: Hitchcock's Shower Scene (2017) denotes the 78 set-ups and the 52 cuts across a full week of shooting for Psycho's (1960) famous shower scene. Known for The People vs. George Lucas (2010), The Life and Times of Paul the Psychic Octopus (2012) and Doc of the Dead (2014), Philippe's exploration of a singular moment is a conversational one, featuring interviews with Walter Murch, Peter Bogdanovich, Guillermo del Toro, Jamie Lee Curtis, Osgood Perkins, Danny Elfman, Eli Roth, Elijah Wood, Bret Easton Ellis, Karyn Kusama, Neil Marshall, Richard Stanley and Marli Renfro, body double for Janet Leigh.

Keep reading... Show less

Mary Poppins, Mrs. Gamp, Egyptian deities, a Japanese umbrella spirit, and a supporting cast of hundreds of brollies fill Marion Rankine's lively history.

"What can go up a chimney down but can't go down a chimney up?" Marion Rankine begins her wide-ranging survey of the umbrella and its significance with this riddle. It nicely establishes her theme: just as umbrellas undergo, in the everyday use of them, a transformation, so too looking at this familiar, even forgettable object from multiple perspectives transforms our view of it.

Keep reading... Show less
7

Those who regard the reclusive Argerich as one of the world's two or three greatest living pianists—classical or otherwise—would not have left the concert hall disillusioned.

In a staid city like Washington, D.C., too many concert programs still stick to the basics. An endless litany of Rachmaninoff and Tchaikovsky concerti clog the schedules and parades of overeager virtuosi seem unwilling to vary their repertoire for blasé D.C. concertgoers. But occasionally you encounter a concert that refreshes your perspective of the familiar. The works presented at The Kennedy Center on 25 October 2017 might be stalwarts of 20th century repertoire, but guest conductor Antonio Pappano, leading the Orchestra dell'Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, reminded us how galvanizing the canonical can still be. Though grandiose executions of Respighi's The Fountains of Rome and The Pines of Rome were the main event, the sold-out crowd gathered to see Martha Argerich perform one of her showpieces, Prokofiev's Third Piano Concerto. Those who regard the reclusive Argerich as one of the world's two or three greatest living pianists—classical or otherwise—would not have left the concert hall disillusioned.

Keep reading... Show less
9
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image