Culture. A simple word of only seven letters. And yet, if you're a hip hop fan like I am, that word holds so much weight. This music is more than just a bop; it's culture.
Still, most of us live it without thinking about it. Cause that's how it works, right? Most of us are consumed by the day to day - bills, kids, etc. And, hell, during this pandemic
just staying alive can be all consuming.
But a few of us, whether through a divine calling or the din of their own grit, find themselves among the few that keep this culture, and even push it forward. Which brings us to the latest effort from Drum Machine Tape Cassette, the duo consisting of legendary MC and producer Kev Brown and raw-as-they-come MC and producer J Scienide.
The duo's new 12 cut album, ‘Stray From the Pack’, is Hip Hop to the core, and finds the duo accepting the mantle of preserving this hip hop culture we hold so dearly.
Lots of albums are released each year. Many of them good. This one is great. Why you ask? Here are a few reasons:
- Kev and J rhyming compatibility : These guys have somehow synchronized their differing vocal styles - J Scienide's frenetic wordplay and Kev's deep voiced staccato delivery - into a cohesive back and forth reminiscent of the great duos of yore like EPMD.
- If Kev and J evoke Eric and Parrish, then DJ John Doe's their DJ Scratch. His cuts throughout the album are razor sharp, landing in the right place, and doing their part to keep this culture of ours alive.
- J Scienide's production - What can I say? J Scienide's production holds its own on this album next to that of the venerable Kev Brown. Need evidence? Check out the J Scienide produced standout cut ‘Grand Prize Winners’ and tell me your mind ain’t blown.
- Kev's a legend. Period. We all know that, but to hear him acknowledge it on ‘High Standards’ is something. He raps: "I seen the Quincy Jones Netflix Joint/He did so much/Got a lot of batons to hold up". That's a man humbly recognizing the greatness of his predecessors but still recognizing his role to push this thing forward. You love to see it.
- Kev's introspection on ‘Cutlass Supreme’ - Putting his mirror talks to himself in a song. Not many MC's would or could do that. He can and he did.
- J Scienide on Cutlass Supreme - first with the Slug Supreme/Love Supreme callback on a song called ‘Cutlass Supreme’, and then with the Billy Ocean callout - "Get out of My Dreams and into my car Josephine", J keeps the wordplay on point.
- The interludes - Stray From the Pack takes an approach to interludes similar to what we saw earlier this year on the Kev Brown produced XO album ‘Corporate over Culture 2’, where the interludes aren’t simply beat snippets between the main songs, but rather legit dope beats themselves, woven so seamlessly that you feel as if they are an entire song on their own. They almost function like bonus tracks.
- The 3 song run - I keep running back ‘High Standards’, ‘Grand Prize Winners’, and ‘Cutlass Supreme’. A great album got to have a 3 song run (I require it!), and I found mine here.
Simultaneously hard body and atmospheric; simultaneously hard charging and introspective; simultaneously preserving the culture while pushing it forward, ‘Stray From the Pack’ doesn't compromise - this is Hip Hop for people that love Hip Hop. This record is bigger than just beats and rhymes; this is culture.
- Kamau "Slacks" Malone