March 6, 2007

Automator - A Better Tomorrow (April 15, 1996)

Dan "The Automator" Nakamura is, without a doubt, one of my favorite producers ever, which is not bad, considering he started out as a club deejay. His songs have that cinematic feel that lets you see his music, which is useful if you're a creative type, love music, or just love to get stoned. He tends to use a lot of heavy drums, jazz breaks, sci-fi elements, and, oddly, Chris Elliott references, into his instrumental tracks, which he has provided for the likes of Del tha Funkee Homosapien, Mike Patton, Damon Albarn, and, most notably and infamously, Kool Keith (see their classic Dr. Octagon pairing, which I'll write up soon).

A Better Tomorrow was an EP release that was put out by the Ubiquity label, in an effort to capitalize on the underground success of the Dr. Octagon project. It mainly consists of instrumentals, save for a few tracks with the "spoken word" stylings of Sinister 6000, which is just another Kool Keith alias (he has quite a few). The instrumentals provide the listener with the ability to see what hip hop could be (or, in actuality, what it could have been, since this CD is eleven fucking years old).

1. A BETTER TOMORROW, PT. 2 (FEAT KOOL KEITH)
I'm usually wary of albums that feature a song's sequel before the original track. No need to worry about that here.

2. THE TRUTH (ALL THOSE LIES)
Oh, parenthetical song titles, how I've missed you!

3. 4:17
So he finished up the track with just enough time to light one up? That's one hell of a work ethic.


4. SLEEP
Actually sounds more like DJ Shadow than Automator's work, but no matter; this song is the shit.

5. A BETTER TOMORROW (FEAT KOOL KEITH)
Basically a longer version of "Part 2", with some beat changes.

6. A BETTER TOMORROW (INSTRUMENTAL)
Come on, what else would this sound like?




On August 8, 2000, hot on the heels of the successful (for music critics) Handsome Boy Modeling School collaboration with Prince Paul (another of my favorite producers ever), 75 Ark rereleased this CD in an expanded edition titled A Much Better Tomorrow, including eleven full tracks (but missing the instrumental to "A Better Tomorrow" for some reason). The album even promoted the fact that the Kool Keith contributions were recorded during the Dr. Octagon studio sessions, a fact that was left out when nobody (read: white magazine critics) knew who either of these guys were. The Automator was set to blow...at least, as much as you would expect an underground hip hop producer who mainly produced for non-rappers could blow.


1. A BETTER TOMORROW (FEAT KOOL KEITH)
Oddly, Parts 1 and 2 were the victims of a title switched-at-birth situation.

2. KING OF NY (FEAT KOOL KEITH)
Kool Keith always sounded the most comfortable over an Automator beat.

3. I WANT DA MIC (FEAT KOOL KEITH)
Well, you can't always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you just might find you get what you need.

4. SLEEP
Love this song. Shorter than the original version.

5. WILING (FEAT NEPH THE MADMAN)
I'm reading the album title, and I've no clue how that spells out a word pronounced "wilding".

6. CARTOON CAPERS (FEAT KOOL KEITH)
Exponentially more Keith on the reissue, in case you haven't noticed.

7. 4:17
See review above.

8. BUCK BUCK (FEAT POET)
Keith sounds great over an Automator track, but these two other rappers? Not so much.

9. THE TRUTH (ALL THOSE LIES)
See review above.

10. IT'S OVER NOW (FEAT KOOL KEITH)
Laid back Automator track with a calmer-than-usual Keith. Good shit.

11. A BETTER TOMORROW, PT. 2
Started life as the original "A Better Tomorrow", but you know how it goes.


FINAL THOUGHTS: A Better Tomorrow is a good sampler for those who aren't familiar with Dan Nakamura's work with the Gorillaz, Lovage, Deltron 3030, Handsome Boy Modeling School, that Depeche Mode remix he did, and My Little Pony (can't tell if I'm kidding anymore, can you?). For people who already know his work, though, A Much Better Tomorrow is the way to go, since you get the rare Kool Keith collaborations that, at that point, had never been released.

BUY OR BURN? You probably won't find A Better Tomorrow anywhere, as it is out of print. A Much Better Tomorrow, though, is worth your time and your money. Also, the CD is blue! Blue! How crazy is that, people?

BEST TRACKS: "Sleep"; "It's Over Now"; "A Better Tomorrow"


-Max

2 comments:

  1. For all these people who are hip hop enthusiasts to not know of Dan The Automator is crazy...
    I definitely agree with you but "Sleep" puts me to sleep.
    Nice review still, can't find these everywhere.

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  2. Overall I very much dig your tastes & your overall project here, but your comment towards Poet ('Buck Buck') is so seriously off that you've got me wondering. He's one of the most unheralded OG's, but that aside, the track slams--where are your ears? I implore you, give it another listen!

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