As time passes, the sounds that define a particular genre or scene change, often blending new influences to create a sound that shifts its' trajectory until it is something nearly unrecognizable from the genre's origins. The thing about this progression, however, is that no matter how far the boundaries are pushed by countless forward thinking artists, we are always refreshed when a sound is returned to its' very basic roots to remind us what started the movement.
For hip-hop, the original elements that marked the production of early instrumentals were some of the most progressive sounds the genre has ever seen. The use of sampling to blend soul, jazz, funk and other classic influences gave us an undeniably authentic sound that gave hip-hop an identity.
Buffalo's own rap collective, Essential Vitamins Crew, thrives on the boom-bap and soulful sampling production that gave hip-hop its early edge and creates the kind of instrumental jams that should be played on car casette decks and through ghetto blaster speakers. Their latest instrumental mixtape, Tapedeck Beats, brings to memory the rich, eclectic instrumentals of J Dilla and A Tribe Called Quest's Ali Shaheed Muhammad and adds a flavor of unpredictability that separates itself from much of the current hip-hop production scene where one idea is the driving piece of the track.
Spanning twenty tracks, Tapedeck Beats works incredibly well as a cohesive instrumental piece rather than a collection of beats with their own individual purpose. The mixtape's opener, "Four Loko Sessions 1," starts with a vocal sample about artists drive to be different coming out of respect for other artists and not trying to step on their toes by copying their style. The beat that ensues is the perfect realization of this statement as it is, along with much of EVC's production, heavily indebted to the sounds that genre were built on, yet feels fresh with a new take on a sound that has been waiting for a breath of fresh air.
The jazz influenced "Biscuits & Gravy" is carried by a bass line that along with a flute sample brings the track together and begs for an MC with a highly rhythmic flow to spit over. "Split Like Bananas" brings to mind the early production of Los Angeles producer Flying Lotus with its' bouncing synth bass and rich percussion that engulfs the track in driving rhythm.
Perhaps the most soulful track, "Desayuno Interlude", sets driving boom-bap drum production to a grooving bass line that carries much of the track in between breaks of a soul sample that is one of the top moments of the mixtape. Other standout tracks include "Rice Wine," "Chai Latte," and the very soulful "Taquito Treats" that features one of the better samples on the record. The closing track "Covestrumental Outro" brings together the funk vibes with an indian sitar sample that gives track another element that breaks it away from classic hip-hop production while remaining true to the spirit of exploring alternative sounds as hooks. Essential Vitamins Crew have clearly established themselves as the premier rap collective in Buffalo by developing a style of their very own that continues to push the boundaries of hip-hop production by staying true to the genre's original ideals.
Tapedeck Beats can be heard at the group's bandcamp page and can be downloaded for $7.