Uncommon Records dropped their latest release a little over a month ago, but is all that shines made of gold?
Los Angeles experimental rapper Gajah teams up with New York producer Uncommon Nasa to release his fourth LP Hands Of Gold Are Always Cold. The combination of progressive talent can only result in one outcome, an album that will push boundaries.
The short introductory track Hands Of Gold is reserved and subtle, it builds a sense of anticipation broken by Seek & Gather (Dream Tour) which relies on tribal beats to build tempo with scattered synths and keys forming a frenzy over which the rhythmic vocalist presides.
The sound smooths out somewhat as the pre-release single Hot Pants combines elements of funk guitar and drums with fast flowing, easy on the ear raps. A prominent bassline provides a pleasing groove, adding to the cool vibe that exudes from the track which makes it an obvious, radio friendly choice. Your perceptions of hip-hop begin to be tested with the irregularly timed Off The Chain which is industrial in it’s presentation relying on very a very primal sound. Atari Blitzkrieg features on vocals as the gold theme recurs.
Duly Noticed presents urban/industrial style percussion blended with a more traditional hip-hop sentiment, flavoured with an R&B influence as King features. The Grands is the most Uncommon Nasa track on the release which makes sense as the producer lends his vocals to this song which would fit right in on his own recent release, New York Telephone in all but concept. Harsh rhythms and disjointed beats that cut in and out form the basis of a track that reflects societal flaws in modern America. Bloodsport introduces a sinister tone with reverb heavy beats, short bass inflections and minimalist instrumentation. Driven by the lyrics, Gajah delivers his message via his experienced flow and perfect sense of timing making the track one of my stand-outs.
Though slow in tempo, heavy guitars add to the venom of Soldier of Truth and although I feel the chorus is weak on a release built very much on strong vocals, the verses continue the high standards on a track that’s have you nodding your head whether you intend to or not. The sound changes subtly once more on Testimony. Gone are the guitars, replaced now with a repetitive bass hook, but still in place are the organic sounding beats that help to meld the release together. Verging on spoken word there’s a mild jazz feel to this track.
The transition between tracks is clever as each track maintains an element of the former whilst never sounding the same. Radio On Acid maintains a light jazz influence with a misleading, gentle intro that moves aside for a fast paced track that introduces a pacy beat and rock guitars. The flow of lyrics is faster too with guest vocalist Radioinactive lending his talents too. It’s another stand-out track that had me bouncing along.
The album concludes with No Country For Young Men, a five minute thirteen second presentation of progressive hip-hop that meshes together irregular beats, raucous samples, video game beeps and the urban/industrial percussion. Once again Gajah’s vocals form a steady element making sense of proceedings, something that works remarkably well.
Hands Of Gold Are Always Cold offers up a confident and competent vocalist who draws on the underbelly of modern society and presents it in a pleasing and hypnotic package through his rhythmic flow, all the while underscored by Uncommon Nasa‘s unique production style that seems to condense chaos into beats and sounds. A creative album that should inspire any up-and-coming vocalist or producer. There’s an awful lot to take from this in technical terms and although it’s not a traditional hip-hop experience music fans should find plenty to enjoy over multiple listens.
Hands Of Gold Are Always Cold is available to buy now from the Uncommon Records bandcamp page from $8 for the digital download.
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