Apologies if my choice of review material seem a touch nepotistic recently. It was less than a week back that I dropped a piece on SOL associates Moulding The Breaks’ Subterranea night and here I am going over Leeds Hip-Hop Scene editor Wisdomtooth‘s collaborative project with Seattle MC Malaki.
The thing is, in a scene the size of Leeds there’s very few people that I don’t either have links with already or hope to connect with in the future so you’ll just have to trust that my pieces are relatively objective… I try to stay as balanced as possible.
Dr Knox describe themself (on t’Myspace) as "experimental Hip-Hop", which is I guess a fair summary and sets up the appropriate expectations. The album is 21 tracks long and boasts titles such as "Absolute Resolution Of Feeling Parts 1 & 2" and "Ode To Tennyson", so there were clear signs that this wasn’t going to be another set of identikit club bangers or a painstaking recreation of Golden-Era Primo boom-bap.
However, I was faced with the equally terrifying prospect that this might be some sort of deeply indulgent prog-rock-with-rapping LP. Cliches combined in new ways are still cliches…
Thankfully IEgo is nowhere near that bad (talk about damning with faint praise… stick with me though!) The majority of the tracks on here are either solid mellow hip-hop (albeit with somewhat more adventurous than usual production) or well-executed updates of older genres such as folk-rock (word to Rose Kemp), managing to merge not so much the formal conventions of each style but rather transposing the soul and feeling of diverse musical inspirations.
At times the best comparison would be a more coherent, less hipster-ish Beck… relatively innovative production is frequently matched by a willingness and ability to provide a decent, memorable hook for the chorus.
Malaki has a diverse and fluid flow which manages to hold sway over most of the many rhythms offered up. His subject matter is always fairly abstract and does occasionally stray too far down the path signed "Hippy Bullshit" but on the whole he does enough to keep listeners entertained and I certainly don’t have any qualms about his ability as an MC. Equally, though the album as whole does occasionally get a bit weighed down by its own length and ambition, its merits outweigh its weaknesses.
This is not an album which leaves you bored or feeling like you’ve heard "more of the same". It is also very likely to appeal across genre boundaries without alienating any Hip-Hop head with a reasonably open mind.