Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Midnight Calling reviews "Bootleg This"

 Aiden over at Midnight Calling e-zine graced us with another fine review, this time of SmacOne's solo debut "Bootleg This". Check it out:

Feb 12

SmacOne – Bootleg This

by Aiden, Filed under: Reviews
These days, Hip Hop is not a genre which I am particularly knowledgeable about, so this review took some time to assimilate.  Back in the ‘80s I was a big fan of Run DMC and Public Enemy, but I have found very little to attract me in the contemporary Hip Hop scene.   But SmacOne is practically his own genre.   His website calls him Poetical Hip Hop, and this is as good a description as any.   While Hip Hop based, “Bootleg This” contains many other elements.   Guests on “Bootleg This” include Navigator, Jong-IL, Frost, and Christophe.  The only one I am familiar with is Christophe, who has done some fine work of his own.
“The 27th Letter” begins with a bit of saloon piano, and then goes into smooth hip hop vocals.  A funky, yet subtle bass line follows along with the piano, and eventually a cool keyboard hook emerges.  A bit of signature scratching and a spoken segment follows, and the song ends with rather elegant piano.
“Unsigned Hype” is an anthem to independent artists everywhere.  “got a studio I built myself/keep your record deals/I don’t need your help”.   Fast vocals, backed up by a bit a soul, the song blasts the system with biting lines such as “mainstream tools have everyone fooled”.    I am reminded of the great Gil Scott-Heron.   “If you want it done right, you got to do it yourself“.  That’s the truth!
“Mistaken Identity” is slower, with more of an R&B feel.  Backing vocals interject a bit of Middle Eastern flavor that quickly become hypnotic along side the soft electro loop.  Main vocals are layered nicely.  “Now I’m self resurrected from my tomb“…
“Still Standing” strays into classic rap, with a hard hitting instrumental intro, and cadenced vocals.  Percussion is inexorable, and backing effects such as a bell give the song a sense of variety. Guest vocals keep the song edgy, and the song ends rather ominously.
“Bootleg This” another slap at the mainstream, is sort of rap-rock, with epic, almost heroic guitar and synth.  I love the guitar midway through the song.  “Now these major labels gotta listen to the common folk”     Vocals are subtly layered, which adds to the impact. ‘it’s round one, chump, and you better not choke.” Tell ‘em Smac.
A very funky intro heralds “You Could Be”, which is a rather imaginative variation of the old pick-up routine.  This is much more cleverly done than most contemporary hip-hop.  The backing vocals are great, bringing Leon Redbone to mind.
In  “Lay Me Down Ft. A-Dawg”, a funeral bell gives a gothic, macabre touch to a coffin’s eye view of a disreputable life.  “Now I lay me down to sleep/in a fly three piece six feet deep”.  Staccato, machinegun-like percussion and occasional gun shots provide suitable emphasis to the theme, and alternating vocals are very effective.  Synth is rather catchy.
“Native Beauty” is a love-lost-and-then-lost song, with a very evocative Native American flute in the background.  An hypnotic bass line and alternating distorted vocals give this song add to the song immensely.
“Replicas” is a contemporary rap song with a very unusual and effective chorus (for want of a better word.)  Not for the faint-hearted, yet unaccountable smooth.
“Fuckin Famous” not only has some great guitar and a fine electro hook, the hard punch it delivers to rivals is creative and true.  “I’ve heard better rhymes from Dr. Suess” and “develop your grammar” echoes exactly what I have thought on more than one occasion.  “Your rap sheet’s real but your skill is imaginary” is another great line.
“Stupid Bitch” is the ultimate comeback to the kind of girl we’ve all known at least once in our lives.  “I’m tired of you/running your mouth/you stupid bitch/get the fuck out”.  Acoustic guitar is a perfect counterpoint to the smooth vocals.  Imagine the demented lounge music that would have resulted if Flavor Flav was an understudy to Frank Sinatra, and you have the spirit of “Stupid Bitch”.
“The Dark Side” is a remix of Christophe’s very cool country song, with Christophe and Joe D. on guitars. .   Electric guitar is heavy, nearly psychedelic..  Acoustic guitar accompany the intense vocals.  Guest vocals give a hard rock touch “And if I could I’d do it all again.”  Halfway through, a very choppy rock guitar solo leads into the final vocals.
The very moving “Acoustic Dreams” features acoustic guitar and a sharp percussive effect.  “the love for this is instilled in my heart/and I’ll keep on pushing until my soul departs.”  The chorus has some very interesting backing vocals that give weight to the entire song.
In an age of carbon-copy, mediocre heavy rotation performers, “Bootleg This” is carefully crafted, intelligent, versatile, and hard hitting.   SmacOne is the future of the Hip Hop underground.  Out there on the cutting edge, it’s not about the fashion, the kowtows, or the cash.  It’s about the music, and SmacOne delivers.

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