Monday, April 13, 2009

The Not-So-Free Houdini

You want new music you say? And not only does it have to be new, but it can't be that over-hyped crap like all this Eminem/Asher Roth*/Charles Hamilton/Rick Ross B.S. that seems to be all anybody can blog about? Hmm... tall order. And there's nothing left to be said about Blaq Poet's album that hasn't been covered in triplicate (but if you weren't sure: get it, dummy!). But not to worry - I got you.

This is Themselves' prelude to their upcoming album, CrownsDown: a mix-tape of all new material called The Free Houdini (mixed by Odd Nosdam and mastered by Daddy Kev). Now, if you haven't been following along with the news closely, you might be a bit confused. See, there's two versions of The Free Houdini. The first one, the downloadable mixtape, has been out for a minute. This one, the "very limited, deluxe edition," just landed today. I'm not sure how limited this "very limited" pressing is, but as you can see in the scan, mine is #1139, so maybe "semi-limited" would have been a little more accurate. Anyway, the distinction between this "deluxe" version and the one you may've downloaded is an additional 16 minutes worth of material (4 songs) that wasn't available in the free download. It's also broken up into separate tracks, whereas the download was just one, large mp3. It was originally announced that this deluxe edition would "have a digital booklet with lyrics," as well (something that's especially valuable with an MC like Dose, where it can be very difficult to make out what the hell he's saying). But this has turned out not to be the case. :(

But that disappointment aside, this is one sweet-ass CD. The guest-list reads like they read their biggest fan's message board wish list and made it happen: AesopRock, Buck 65, Sole, BusDriver, Pedestrian, Serengetti (ok, I have no idea who the fuck that is), Slug, Why? (yes, rapping not singing), DJ Baku, Passage of Restiform Bodies, DJ Andrew, Alias... even Lionesque, who we haven't heard from since the 90's returns to make another duet with Dose! But for all these guests, they still manage to keep the spotlight centrally on the talents of Dose and Jel.

The classic hip-hop throwback vibe they're shooting for on this mix (Dose is kicking mostly battle raps, for cripes' sake) works much better than Buck 65's half-assed 2007 attempt, Situation, hitting us with everything from a human beatbox track to ill LL Cool J and Saafir vocal samples being cut up to a remake of The Krown Rulers' "Kick the Ball." But the most exciting aspect of this mix isn't the plethora of clever old school rap references (because, let's face it, Nas definitively won that contest two years ago with his "Where Are They Now" remix 12" anyway), and frankly I could've done with a little less of the "name dropping for credibility" schtick... No, it's the general out-pouring of engaging beats, rhymes and successful collaborations that Anticon hadn't been able to make happen in a long time. So don't stop; get it, get it.

For the record, all of the music here is brand new, but three of the 20 songs are taken from the upcoming album. Themselves don't seem to have a collective myspace, but here's Dose's and here's Jel's. And of course their label site is: I'm not sure if they've announced a date for CrownsDown yet, but I don't care. 'Cause I'll be rockin' this one for a while.

Update 4/14/09: Cheers to Odd Nosdam for setting me straight on a couple points. One: Themselves do have a collective myspace page, and it's here. And two: Serengeti is a new Anticon signee, an MC from Chicago... his myspace his here.

*People keep calling him the next Eminem, and sure the voice and tone are clearly derivative; but substance/ content-wise, I'd say he's really the next Jesse Jaymes, with just a touch of that Danny Hoch "I'm some kind of performance artist" pretentiousness.

1 comment:

  1. another correction... the version available for purchase from digital retailers such as iTunes will have a digital booklet included with the purchase.