Mos Def‘s new album, the Ecstatic, was released last week. After a couple of listens I’d probably agree with the more than warm reception it’s received. It’s definitely a return to the form of Black on Both Sides, but this isn’t a review – not yet anyway. I just thought I’d share some of the great interconnectivity that comes with music, and perhaps more specifically, Hip-Hop.
As an art form, Hip-Hop attracts a lot of flak. A lot of people will dismiss it as misogynistic posturing using lazily re-appropriated melodies and samples of other people’s work. Of course, such people are usually awfully boring white-rock fans who’ll go on at length about ‘poets’ like Bob Dylan or ‘true artists’ like Led Zeppelin – whilst overlooking that they themselves did a fair bit of appropriating and sampling. But more importantly, they’re missing the point. There’s something very poetic to be said about an artform that creates art purely from art, I’m not going to go into that now, that’s for another post, or at least someone more eloquent than me to go into. I’ve always had an interest in instrumental Hip Hop albums like J-Dilla’s Donuts, DJ Shadow‘s Endtrouducing or Madlib‘s Beat Konducta series, that involves discovering when and where the samples used came from. It makes the finished product all the more inspiring when you realise that that hypnotic chiming comes from a 1970s soul rhythm section, that weird percussive bass is from a 1980s thrash metal album or that demonic spoken word segment is actually a Marvin Gaye lyric reversed with a lot of reverb thrown on top…or not. It’s the sort of musical geekery that both makes you appreciate the product you’re listening to and opens up a lot of new doors for you to explore.
Anyway, how does this relate to Mos Def? The first track of his new album samples, along with a section of Malcolm X’s infamous speech at Oxford Union debate on extremism, a mind-melting, fuzzed out guitar riff. Instantly transfixed I perused the usual channels to find out where it came from. Eventually, Youtube bore fruit and I was introduced to the world of Selda Bagcan and the song Ince Ince.
What other genre can provide that sort of service with its music? From East-coast Hip Hop to Turkish Psychedelica in one leap. Wonderful.