At some point in 2011, back when I wasn't paying attention, acclaimed producer DJ Premier (still best known for being one-half of Gang Starr alongside the late rapper-slash-producer Guru) and New York-based troubadour James "Freddie Foxxx/Bumpy Knuckles" Campbell announced that they were teaming up to
discover a cure for cancer record a collaborative album entitled The Kollexxxion. This news was well-received in hip hop circles, those whose members were old enough to have possibly fought in the Korean War. And me, obviously, or else I wouldn't be writing about them.
As happens constantly in any sort of entertainment media, hip hop tends to feast on itself on a regular basis. Everything on the radio sounds like everything else on the radio: change occurs both gradually and immediately in our chosen genre, often in such a subtle way that hip hop heads can't remember a time when they weren't complaining about all of the goddamn Lil' Wayne features on the airwaves at any given moment. DJ Premier and Freddie Foxxx (who really prefers to be known just as Bumpy Knuckles, please and thank you) are relics of an earlier time, one where skills behind the mic were respected, and if you happened to live the life that you preached on your records, that was a plus. Bumpy's aggressive lyricism, articulately violent and yet kind of fucking hilarious at times, won the man a slew of fans when he made his comeback on Gang Starr's hyper-popular single "The Militia", one of the first times he connected with Primo, and he rode this new wave of popularity through his first album under the Bumpy persona, Industry Shakedown, which (surprise!) featured a couple of DJ Premier beats. (Sure, Pete Rock helped a bit, too, but he hasn't recorded a collaborative album with Freddie Foxxx yet.)
When they finally got around to the studio, Primo and Bumpy knocked out a ton of tracks for The Kollexxxion, so many that most of them were inevitably locked in the vaults, never to be heard from until someone needed to pay a gas bill or something. But the subjects of today's post did something admirable: they compiled a short EP with five tracks that didn't make the project, calling it StOoDiOtYmE, its ridiculously-styled title hiding the fact that it's essentially an audio infomercial for The Kollexxxion. It's extremely rare for everything an artist records to actually appear on an official album: I would personally enjoy it if more rappers unleashed their outtakes for the fans.
If they were worth listening to, anyway.
At first, Primo's instrumental sounds pleasant but unaffecting, but I urge you to hang in there, because once Fredward Foxxx starts spitting, everything becomes much more dramatic and your senses will somehow heighten as a result. The beat for this title track isn't what I would call "banging", but it is much better than most of DJ Premier's output in 2011, and Bumpy's flow, although not nearly as aggressive as I would have hoped, fits the track's identity as the metaphorical calm before the storm. As a rap song, this was entertaining enough, but as a rap album intro, it's excellent.
At three minutes and ten seconds, "Fake" is the longest song on StOoDiOtYmE, and I have to admit, Primo's cloying beat makes the song feel like twice that length easily. But Bumpy Knuckles comes through to save the day with his argument against fake rappers (this is a guy who recorded "R.N.S.", which stood for "Real N---a Shit", after all: what, you thought he would suddenly tolerate bullshit?), delivered in the calm cadence of a sociopath version of Jay-Z, except for when he sings, hilariously, during the brief hook. While I'm glad "Fake" didn't make it to the official album, I'm also happy to report that Freddie Foxxx doesn't treat it as the throwaway that it should have been.
3. THAT PREEMO SHIT
Bumpy's love letter to his producer and the boom bap sound that has defined his work in our chosen genre for the past eighty-three years takes place over a surprisingly mellow Primo instrumental: you would think that DJ Premier would have run with something far more celebratory, or at least a beat with some goddamn energy. Lethargy aside, Bumpy lends some nice bars shouting out the man behind the boards (and the late Guru) and also apologizes to his fans for never releasing his album Amerikkan Black Man, which was awfully nice of him. The chorus sounds dull and forced: perhaps if the music were a bit more wide-eyed and bushy-tailed there wouldn't have been a need for one.
This track, however, was pretty good, even with the faux-positivity expressed in the bizarrely-mangled song title (which actually reads with every other letter in a capital form, as "TaKeIt2tHeToP"). Primo's beat sounds like it was lifted from a late-period Gang Starr outtake, and Bumpy flows over it like water, newly matured water who doesn't feel the need to speak with his guns and his fists anymore. If this song is representative of what The Kollexxxion sounds like, then we may all be in for a pleasant treat (and yes, I realize The Kollexxxion is already in stores: I was speaking more in terms of the eventual Gut Reaction post, which I've just promised and now, apparently, must adhere to at some point). Not bad.
5. INSPIRED BY FIRE
Bumpy ends StOoDiOtYmE with a song for the kids, as this one-hitter quitter contains no curse words and is one hundred percent-inspirational shit. Fredward's been in the game long enough to have amassed the life experience needed to demand that you take his advice fucking seriously, and the fact that Primo's backing mirrors some of the best work he's done outside of Gang Starr (read: his beat is catchy as hell) only helps sell the entire package. A nice way to cap the evening.
THE LAST WORD: As an extended commercial for The Kollexxxion (one that can be listened to in its entirety during your morning coffee break), StOoDiOtYmE is actually pretty entertaining. DJ Premier's boom bap may have received first billing, but the true draw here lies with the artist formerly known as Freddie Foxxx, who burns through these five tracks without breaking a sweat. He's most certainly aged, far beyond what made him most appealing from his classic cameo on "The Militia", but everyone gets older, and the fact that he still sounds decent is a testament to how much he respects his craft. This EP is little more than a cheap diversion, one seemingly specifically designed to appeal to my short attention span, but while Primo's beats don't always hit the mark, Bumpy Knuckles more than makes up for it. Also, the EP is cheap as hell, and it's fucking short. For little to no investment on your part, DJ Premier and Bumpy Knuckles have supplied some entertaining bites of hip hop cuisine. Yeah, I thought that metaphor sucked too, but I did like most of this EP, one that is worth your time if you're into the whole New York boom bap thing.
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