Friday, January 13, 2012

Kase.O Jazz Magnetism (BOA, 2011)

In many ways Kase.O epitomizes the Spanish paradox I referred to in that article I posted back at the dawn of Ana Tijoux's successful international crossover. Spain's Kase.O is widely regarded by Spanish rap connoisseurs as the best MC to ever bless the mic in this language, worldwide. I wouldn't go as far as confirming that legendary status, but I agree that if he's not strictly the best ever, he definitely is among the top three. Still, he remains absolutely unknown by the non-Spanish speaking world.
There are multiple reasons behind that curious phenomenon. For instance, Kase.O is a lyricist's favorite lyricist. And those are not particularly the kind of rappers that tend to get mainstream exposure (Pharoahe Monch, case in point). He has zero mainstream appeal: he's not particularly handsome, he's not really charismatic, he doesn't rhyme about trivial party bullshit over booty-shaking beats and his monotone flow can bore the pants off you if you don't have a deep understanding of the Spanish language. Also, he's not a girl (for some reason the only Spanish-speaking MC's that managed to get the attention of the Anglophone media are almost exclusively all girls: Ana Tijoux, La Mala Rodríguez, Niña Dioz...).
Still, when it comes to competing on the mic, rhyme by rhyme, verse by verse, nobody can touch Violadores del Verso's Kase.O. His laid back style is deceptive, makes it sound so easy that probably pushed thousands of neophytes to pick up the mic and give it a try. But that's exactly where the grandiosity of his rap resides, he makes very complex verbal acrobatics seem so basic that anybody could potentially emulate them. Very few can.
Jazz Magnetism is Kase.O's equivalent to Guru's Jazzmatazz. Not trying to draw parallelisms here, but the concept is quite similar to the one by Mustafayoda & Los Métricos reviewed in the previous post. For this solo adventure, Kase.O temporary broke away from the restrains of his group to work on this ambitious project where he flows seamlessly over a live jazz band. The selection include some of his Violadores del Verso classics in jazzified versions plus many dope new tracks. Hopefully the cool jazzy background will make it a lot more digestible for the non-Spanish speaking audience and he'll get at least some of the global attention he's probably aiming for (with the album art) and he truly deserves. But if this still doesn't work, it's still OK, he doesn't really need it. He's very comfortable being the undisputed emperor of his niche.  

Album available digitally on iTunes, eMusic and other retailers. Worth every penny.

Friday, January 6, 2012

MUSTAFAYODA Y LOS METRICOS-La Poderosa (Sudamétrica, 2011)

I just came back from Argentina, where I bought a lot of records (mostly old cumbia LPs) and only one CD, this one by my old friend Mustafayoda.
I've mentioned him many times already on this blog, not because he is a friend, but because he's like the best representative of Argentine homegrown hip-hop, with a style that's totally his own which created a whole school of acolytes who follow him as an authentic caudillo of the Buenos Aires western outskirts.
This time around, the southern freestyle rap pioneer, has a new project in hands. He re-recorded many of his classic songs in totally new versions with a live band (Los Metricos) and the result is surprisingly good. I honestly didn't expected much, I though his hard-core anti-melodic vocal style wouldn't translate appropriately to the live band experience, but somehow it does. The lyrics are pretty much the same, but the music is completely different from the original versions and so is his flow, which turns the composition into refreshingly new material, instead of refried self-covers of old tracks. Wisely, he changed the titles of the songs to, thus, "El Niño" becomes "Bebes nacen," "Rondas Nocturnas" becomes simply "Rondas," and "Golpe de palmas" becomes "Para todos los perdidos." The impeccable production was almost entirely done by Gas-Lab (who also has a recently-released instrumental acid jazz album worth checking out) who leads the seven-member live band and lays down a few samples on the MPC. A project of epic proportions for the artist and for the independent, Argentine hip-hop scene as a whole.

Stream/Purchase it here.