Sunday, December 19, 2021

Whirlwind D and the Music That Binds Us

Just like I couldn't let the year end without one more Father MC review, Whirlwind D couldn't let it end without lacing us with a new record.  He's consistently put out at least one new vinyl release every year for the past decade, and not even these crazy hard times have been able to stop him.  So let's dig in.

Produced by Djar One, "Without Music" has a lush, funk/soul vibe with packed samples, replete with (non-verbal) looped, female vocals and big horns.  It has an addictive, uplifting vibe - it's the kind of instrumental you want to put on repeat as soon as it's over, like Large Professor's "Key To the City."  It makes perfect sense that this is the backing for a literal ode to music itself.  "Without Music," is all about what music has meant to them and their gratitude for never having to have gone through life without it.  I say "them" because the D's joined by guest MC Micall Parknsun, who lays it all out in the end, "this is all I got to give. Struggling to pay this rent, 'cause we don’t even own our shit.  But this made it all make sense.  And even when I’m deep in debt, and we ain’t even broke even yet, you were always there, when nobody even cared.  You’re the reason that brought me here, 'cause you’re always near.  Every bar is so sincere, so every word in the verse must be crystal clear.  Every line in between each kick and snare.  I’m defining my life what I hold so dear."  But it's still D who lands the deepest hits, "when I hit my lows and my first family broke, bars and beats tapes my heart and mind spoke solace in a verse, unrehearsed, just a burst... In the good times too, not just when I’m blue, rhymes add color and definition to every hue; paint pictures of my past in the ether that will last: reminders of the journey and the places that I’ve passed."

For the B-side we have "Labels," the Smoove Mix 7" Edit.  Originally produced by Djar One, you may recall "Labels" was originally the lead track on D's 2018 Beats, Bits and Bobs EP, and it was also featured on last year's Original Breaks To B-Lines compilation.  This one's produced by a UK producer named Smoove a.k.a. Ultragroove, who goes way back (though I think this is his first collaboration with D): he produced the UK remix of Digital Underground's "No Nose Job."  And that explains the title, because when I first saw "Smoove Mix," I was fully expecting some low key, Smooth Ice, Grand Daddy IU, "How Kool Can One Black Man Be" type of vibe, and this mix is definitely not that.

It's actually another lavish, 70's funk-soul explosion, this time with more of a faster disco vibe, with even more big horns (there's a great, subtle line he only slips in near the end of the second and third verse) and major replayability.  Now, I've already talked about the lyrics and concept in my Bits and Bobs video, so this is an excellent opportunity to talk about scratching.  Anyone familiar with Whirlwind D knows his records are some of the most reliable sources of killer scratch hooks; he always works with amazing DJs.  On this record, it's Specifik on both the A and B sides.  And like I'm sure most of you guys reading this feel, I love scratching.  I love complicated DMC Championship routines, and I love super basic, slow "zugga zugga" rubs on early 80s records.  This is Hip-Hop, I want it all!  A rap song with scratches is automatically one letter grade higher than one without.

But what deserves extra credit here is how well it fits into the music, like Specifik was somehow part of the bands they've sampled back in the 70s.  And that's even more impressive with "Labels," since these are the same scratches as the original mix which had a very different instrumental bed.  Like, if you think of some classic 90s DJ Premier scratch hooks, they always sound brilliant, but they also sound like him doing his cuts on top of a beat.  What's extra dope here is how it all feels of one, pre-designed piece.  I guess part of that is just down to the style of music they're sampling, which is busier, giving the turntablist something to repeatedly disappear into and then dynamically pop out of.  But I also the producers had to have known what they were doing.  There's a part in "Without Music," where they drop the bass out as D's second verse starts, and it sounds like Specifik's last scratch cues it.  Maybe it's just fortunate happenstance, but either way, the result is a pair of instrumentals you're going to love.  I actually prefer this "Labels" to the original, which is saying something, as it was one of D's stand-out tracks the first time around.

So this is a 7", specifically a small hole 45.  It comes in a stylish full picture cover, and a plain white inner sleeve that I only mention because a lot of 7"s seem to skimp out on those.  As of this writing, it's already sold out on D's bandcamp; but it's available at most of the usual online retailers like Juno, HipHopBeBop and RareKind, so there's still time to join the celebration.

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