Unique. That’s probably the first word that comes to mind after an initial listen to High Notes for Low Lifes, the latest release from hip-hop band Animate Objects. It’s also a fitting word to describe the group’s journey. And, of course, it’s the perfect description for what Animate Objects is – a hip-hop band.
High Notes for Low Lifes is the band’s third full-length album – and it was truly a labour of love. As noted previously on PIMB, the band raised the funds needed to produce the album via a Kickstarter campaign. The fact that they raised more than they needed is a testament to the respect hip-hop heads have for this band.
The Kickstarter campaign was just part of a busy year for the five-man, Champaign, Illinois-based band. Just one year after introducing MC Aquil (who joined S. Squair Blaq/CZAR Absolute) Animate Objects shuffled the lineup again in 2010. Out was drummer Danya Thompson (although he is credited for both drums and MPC loops throughout High Notes for Low Lifes and continues to work in a production team named “Danya and the Fail” with founding members Steven Dobias and Prashant Vallury); in was Charles Coffeen on the keys.
Thankfully, for their fans, the changes did not affect the quality of the music. And make no mistake, it’s the music that counts for Animate Objects. The band (which, for most of the album’s tracks, features more than just the 5-man roster) offers a diverse sound that is clearly influenced by funk, jazz, soul and even pop music; MCs Aquil and S. Squair Blaq offer lyrics that go beyond the clichéd posturing of many of today’s artists. They pertain to real life and, perhaps most importantly, they reinforce the importance of being yourself – without being preachy. It’s clear that the members of Animate Objects are happy making their music.
This point is driven home in “Third Coast Clear,” a guitar-heavy track that gives the MCs a chance to shine. The phrase “I don’t care what people say/I’m a get mine anyway” goes beyond trash talk and is a statement of independence and originality.
On the reggae-influenced “No Sorrows,” Aquil and S. Squair Blaq continue the theme of introspection. High Notes for Low Lifes is certainly not the album to pick up if you’re look for punch lines and battle raps, but that isn’t to say the band’s MCs don’t deliver. Both have engaging voices, thought-provoking lyrics and a musician’s approach to their delivery – never wavering from the beat.
But it’s not all about spitting rhymes over fantastic instrumentals. “Balancing Act” is a very laid-back track featuring vocals from Sherry Amour (who co-wrote the track with Dobias); in addition, High Notes for Low Lifes features vocal contributions from Lester Jay, StephStaa and WizDom (from SPQ-Her), as well as S-Star (from Sidewalk Chalk). And on the album’s closer, “High Notes for Low Lifes,” Aquil and S. Squair Blaq deliver spoken word verses over a jazz-inspired instrumental.
At the end of the day, it’s Animate Objects’ unique take on hip-hop that leads to their success – and the success of High Notes for Low Lifes. Unfortunately, that individualism will also earn the band some detractors. But, if we’ve learned anything about them, we know this: they won’t care. And we’ll be better for it.