23
Apr
12

I ♥ Tuesdays Vol. 16

After using last week’s Tuesday column as an outlet to express my endless love (no Lionel) for hip-hop music, it’s time to return to the script for this week’s edition.  This week, I give you my thoughts on a perplexing and unexpected drop courtesy of two of Cali’s chronic connoisseurs, Blu and Madlib, who, on Sunday, suddenly blessed the Interwebs with a free stream of their collaborative effort, ucla.

Not that sporadic and out of the blu (pun alert) releases are anything new for this pairing; Madlib’s staggering productivity has led to a series of impulsive dispensations, while Blu’s highly-anticipated follow-up to Below the Heavens with Exile was liberated in Decmeber via Bandcamp, with literally no warning of the pending release.  And both cats have certainly developed a reputation for their off-kilter charisma, regularly displaying complete disregard for industry traditions and trends.

Still, a collaboration between one of the West’s most respected loop diggers and an emcee at the helm of arguably the best sleeper project of the past decade, one would expect some publicity and promotion in hopes of improving prospective financial gain.  Nope.  Nada.  Unless you count a track that leaked back in November, nothing was even known about the project besides that it may have been in the works.

So how does the collaboration’s final product fare? Disappointing, to say the least.  As you might expect – due to both Blu’s inconsistencies as of late and the project’s random emancipation – the tracks are poorly mastered (when mastered at all) and sound nowhere near finished.  Both Blu and Madlib hold up on their respective end of the collaborative union – Blu providing his usual thought-provoking lyricism by means of his ultra-comfy delivery, Madlib lending his never-boring orchestration in typical fashion, no two tracks sounding alike, all the while maintaining cohesion and the definitive Beat Konducta sound – but at no point do the two sounds merge together effectively given the overwhelming engineering issues.

I’m genuinely confounded by the decision to release ucla in its current form.  Could it be a case of Blu knowing that he couldn’t secure Madlib’s permission for an official release? Does Blu view the quality issues as an accessory to the lo-fi, analog charm that is so often associated with Madlib’s production? Is Blu looking to continue his string of erratic behavior in efforts to establish his reputation as a “true” artist (much like former Madlib collaborator DOOM and the DOOMposter bullshit)?  Whatever the reason(s) for the decision, I disagree with it wholeheartedly.  As a fan of both dudes, I was excited when rumors that they were working together began to surface.  Shit, Blu and Madlib were both involved in projects I would rank in my top ten of the 2000s (Below the Heavens and Madvillainy, respectively), and I consider both to be among the best the genre has to offer.  Naturally, the idea of them coming together for a full-length had me licking my chops.  And after seeing the cover art, I was convinced I was in for an auditory treat. 

After a few spins?  Chop licking has been reduced to head shaking. On a few occasions – “Give M Up,” for example – when the vocal distortion isn’t overly grating, we get a glimpse into the true potential of the collaboration.  Unfortunately, those moments are few and far between.  I’m left hoping that an engineer somewhere hears the project and comes through with a mastered version at some point in the fucture.  Otherwise, as disappointing as it is to admit, ucla will be doing little more than collecting dust on my shelf iTunes playlist.

The release schedule for next Tuesday looks stacked.  And that’s not even including LEO37’s Fanfare EP which is scheduled to hit record store shelves Bandcamp next Monday. Here’s hoping that at least one of those projects inspires some positivity in Your Humble Narrator.

Until then, it’s The Blast, ya’ll. 

— Noakes

Originally published February 12, 2012 at theblast-blog.com

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