DESPITE MY GENERAL aversion to contemporary hip-hop, which long ago sold itself to mammon, becoming an even more conservative consumer product than traditional rock, every now and then I find myself gingerly testing the waters.
P-Money is New Zealand’s most celebrated turntablist-turned-producer/artist, and has been the background force behind a few of our biggest crossover hip hop hits, as well as coming up with an increasingly slick series of albums bearing his own name. But this is something different.
P-Money’s collaboration with New York rapper Buckshot is strictly old school. If you wished that hip-hop still sounded like early 1990s acts like Gang Starr, then BackPack Travels may appeal to your sensibilities.
The trouble is, what was novel back then sounds simply cheap and nasty now. In the early ‘90s, samples of old soul records against turntable ‘scratching’ and rapping sounded like the past being raided for the future. The grain of the samples, how they were edited into the mix, and even the type of sampling device all had an impact, and the flow and cadence of the rap, at its best, was somehow in concord with the piece’s constituent parts. Bass music with imported emotive content and someone who not only had something to say, but said it in an interesting way.
It’s not that Buckshot raps badly, it’s just that he sounds like he’s going through the motions, like 99 percent of rappers in 2014, lacking a reason to exist. Within about five minutes, I found that a little voice in my head was going ‘shut up, shut up, SHUT THE FUCK UP!’ because these guys just don’t know when to quit, and I never, ever need to hear a phrase like “niggaz suck dick” or “story of the ‘hood” again, okay? Just about the only line that stood out, possibly for the wrong reason, was: “You want big money, big cars, big bars, big bras…” (Hey, if I got it wrong, I’m not apologizing. Life’s too short to have to listen to it again.) Having some instrumental intermissions may have helped, but instead, the inevitable guest rappers are given their five minutes each, including our own David Dallas.
But back to the production. It’s as though P-Money has decided to go all retro with all these wilted old samples of groaning soul emoters and divas (and flutes and yet more flutes and even a track called ‘Flutes’), but he’s completely missed the boat. Mostly, the production on those early ‘90s hip-hop records was fruity, big and lustrous, where Backpack Travels sounds thin, like he’s copied those samples from some lo-res files from the internet and jammed them into his software without any tweaking.
Look, in its sorry-ass corner of the hip-hop genre, it’s probably respectable in comparison to whatever else is going on. It’s popular, that’s for sure. It’s not a terrible record, but it’s not in the least bit distinguished, either. And those guys droning on and on: just learn to sing, will you? GARY STEEL
Sound = 2.5
Music = 2.5