The late ‘80s and early ‘90s: the Golden Age of hip-hop music. The years right after the artform was introduced to the world, when the records were released that would send hip-hop crashing into pop, changing the sound of both genres to this day.
Ever since then, there has been a constant contingent of artists intent on duplicating the music as it was before old men in suits and little girls in pigtails became the ones steering the ship. But more often than not, the resulting output ends up being just that – duplications, of a sound that reflected an era that, like it or not, is gone forever. Hip-hop is nothing if it’s not new. Thankfully, one member of hip-hop’s new school has internalized both facts: producer and lone wolf Presto.
Rooted in the East, born and raised in the South, and now residing in the West, Presto and his sound is nothing if not well-rounded. Of a NY-based family but born and raised in Houston, Presto was selling mixtapes and DJ’ing house parties by age 15, splashing party people with the sounds of groups like Pete Rock & CL Smooth, Gang Starr, Mobb Deep and A Tribe Called Quest – music the South wasn’t used to.
“The beats just had this jazz edge with the soul. It was just a good balance”, Presto says of the fruits of his relentless digging as a youth. Five years and an ASR-10 later, Presto relocated to Los Angeles – more experienced, more defined, and ready to get busy.
A shared college class with renowned LA producer Omid was all it took to get Presto into the local scene, where he threw events, DJ’ed and slung beats left and right before pressing up 200 copies of a six-song instrumental EP called Breakin Concrete in 2000. Om Records licensed one song (“Relax Your Mind”) for Volume 3 of their popular Mushroom Jazz series, fanning demand for the original EP.
Presto reprinted the album, formed his label Concrete Grooves, and the wheels of progress have been spinning ever since, providing listeners with a steady supply of what is best described as jazz on steroids – a heady blend of laid-back melodies laid over muscular rhythm tracks that sets that "perfect laid back mood" (URB) while keeping "hip hop's MPC driven, golden era sound" (XLR8R).
Presto’s discography reveals an accomplished, prolific and business-minded artist with a penchant for instrumental albums as well as collaborative, vocal-driven records. Presto rang in 2002 with three releases: Impressions On Concrete featuring Omid along with fellow West Coast favorites Sach of The Nonce, Fat Jack and Mum’s The Word among others; the Calligraphy EP, a collab with Cali emcee Lowd; and the largely instrumental album Jazz Juice.
The Inflight Instrumentals LP (2003) came next, followed by Next Impressions (2004), which featured contributions from Wayward Saints, Afrodisiac Soundsystem and singer Kim Hill, who was the focus of Concrete Grooves’ next release, the “Right Now” 12-inch (2005).
2006’s Magic LP featured many of Presto’s usual suspects as well as J Medeiros of The Procussions and the late, great DJ Dusk. Boasting cameos from the likes of Sadat X, Large Professor, O.C. and CL Smooth, Presto has named his newest record State Of The Art, “because I wanted to bring some of what I consider is music that’s missing, some of the old school vibe on a current tip. I just wanted to bring the groove back in music”.
State Of The Art, the new album from producer Presto is dropping 17/06/08 on Concrete Grooves / Fat Beats.