|Had Enough?||Paul Graham||2:42|
|On the Prowl||Paul Graham||4:32|
|Nothing in Their Eyes||Paul Graham||4:13|
|The Walk||Paul Graham||4:15|
|You're Not Alone||Paul Graham||3:37|
|Pictures of Memories||Paul Graham||4:18|
|The Traveler||Paul Graham||5:01|
|Look What We've Done||Paul Graham||2:53|
|Phone Calls||Paul Graham||4:21|
|Feel So Lonely||Paul Graham||3:52|
|Do You Thin It Could Be Love?||Paul Graham||3:37|
|Love Goes on Forever||Paul Graham||3:46|
Depending on your point of view, The Find is either an album whose ideology and overall vibe are stuck in the '90s or a new-millennium hip-hop album that bears influence of the foundation while providing an updated spin from a talented artist.
The latter sentiment is most accurate. Producer/MC Ohmega Watts and a host (and that means host) of friends make The Find a worthwhile listen for any hip-hop fan. With Watts in control, he takes obvious nods to iconic producers (Pete Rock, Diamond D -- he rhymes similar to Large Professor) and the sound of hip-hop's '90s renaissance, while rearranging it in his own distinct way. The six-minute "A Request" is an updated '90s head-nodder with a two-minute rideout that appropriates everything from Souls of Mischief to Gang Starr, with some timpani/cowbell percussion to boot. Ohmega lays down a gritty, strutting groove for "Full Swing" as MCs Neogen and Deacon join him on the mike for an old-fashioned cipher. But even in the midst of a staple track like this, Ohmega manages to finds about 20 seconds in the middle of the tune to do some electronic space traveling. Watts also shows himself a capable and diverse producer, venturing outside the realm of the hip-hop idiom. "Your Love" is a hip-hop/soul vehicle for singer Tiffany Johnson, while "Treasure Hunt" (featuring Sugar Candy) is straight-up authentic dancehall-style reggae. The electric guitar shredding through "Groovin' on Sunshine" highlights one of his several largely instrumental tracks. The Find is very close to a perfect creative balance between exploration and traditionalism, and an impressive debut from a hip-hop commodity.
A Montreal based-performer with connections to the Constellation record collective, Harris Newman isn't trying to sound like the most well-known avatar from that city, Godspeed You Black Emperor!. If anything Non-Sequiturs is an enjoyable polar opposite focusing in on Newman's abilities on acoustic guitar, backed with percussion on various songs from fellow Montreal performer Bruce Cawdron. Much like Newman's labelmate on Strange Attractors, German performer Steffen Basho-Junghans, Newman is inspired by any number of intriguing forebears in American avant-folk of the 20th century. Though John Fahey is an obvious and acknowledged reference point (and perhaps ultimately inescapable given his impact on instrumental folk music), Newman's debut release calls to mind other performers as well, and proves as enjoyable a reinterpretation and revival as any. On its own merits, Non-Sequiturs runs the gamut, from soothing, bluesy contemplation, to quick, exquisite fingerpicking, finding a rich glaze of notes in songs like "Bitten" and "Throwing the Goats." The stop-start approach of "Trick Question," while it may not seem initially striking, captures the quiet moments so well as the notes fade into a quiet hum. Cawdron proves to be a sharp collaborator, often adding muffled or murky beats and stomps that add a distant atmosphere without necessarily trapping the recording in a prison of tremulous period recreation. If anything, the sense of depth added on songs like "The Bullheaded Stranger" does in fact suggest the sweep of Newman's city contemporaries, but not at the expense of his own vision. The slow lapsteel twang and bowed cymbal combination of "God Is in the Details" is a beauty, like Thomas Köner caught somewhere on the open range, while the nearly quarter-hour long "Forest for the Trees" is an extended chance for the two to play off each other in a sometimes nervous and edgy interweaving of low rumbles and quick picking.
Back in the '60s and '70s, soul music had plenty of regional sounds. Memphis had a distinctive sound, as did Chicago, Philadelphia, and Detroit. And in the 21st century, hip-hop can be every bit as regional as R&B was back in the day. New York and Philly MCs tend to have their own way of flowing; rappers from the South and the West Coast also have their regional rapping styles. If one heard Informal Introduction -- Shade Sheist's first full-length solo album -- without knowing anything about the rapper, it would be easy to assume that he was from the West Coast. And sure enough, Sheist was born and raised in the Los Angeles area. This 2002 release is unmistakably West Coast -- Sheist's rapping style is right out of Snoop Dogg, Warren G, DJ Quik, and Eazy-E, and the sleek, R&B-drenched grooves (some of which have a strong George Clinton/P-Funk influence) owe a lot to the influential Dr. Dre. Because of that heavy Snoop/Quik/Dre/Warren G influence, Sheist will inevitably be categorized as a gangsta rapper. But lyrically, Informal Introduction isn't all that violent. Although Sheist uses plenty of profanity and employs a lot of playa/baller/hustler/pimpin' imagery, this CD is more entertaining than threatening -- essentially, Informal Introduction is an R-rated party album. By 21st century standards, Sheist is hardly groundbreaking; no one who has listened to Snoop, Dre, Warren, and Quik extensively in the '90s will find Informal Introduction to be the least bit innovative. But the grooves are generally likable, and tunes like "Thug Luv" and "Stop...
And Think About It" are fairly catchy -- highly derivative, certainly, but catchy nonetheless. Informal Introduction won't go down in history as one of West Coast rap's definitive releases, but it's a decent, if slightly uneven, effort that does have its moments.