I don’t know what it is, but 2010 seems to be the year that the fusion of electronic music and hip-hop has finally appealed to me. I can’t front, I love gangsta rap. To quote the wise ODB, “Oooh baby, I like it raaaaaaaaaw.” But after being turned on to this new stylo thanks to Flying Lotus and the albums Potholes spotlights, there’s an appreciation that I believe comes with maturation of one’s self and of one’s musical tastes. Producer J57 of the Brown Bag All-Stars brings the latest in a hot string of electronic/hip-hop/ trip-hop/whatever-the-hell-you-wanna-call-it-but-it’s-dope music with his strictly-digital release, Digital Society.
What I liked most about this album is that it’s harder than a good amount of material that I’m familiar with from the genre. “Introduction” kicks it off with a heavy synthesizer that sets you in a dark, futuristic world, possibly run by Skynet and patrolled by Terminators. Numerous other instrumentals, including “Ethernomics” and “Kevlar Rex” stuck to a similar dark theme and had me looking for John Connor (Christian Bale version please, the Edward Furlong version was a little sh*thead). The synthesizer does massive amounts of work throughout this album, to the point where it stands out as the main instrument. It can be a little much at times, as I felt the heavy synths were weighing down some songs or just taking them over completely (“Revolver Chromatica”). I thought the dark mood had been set after the first two songs, but J57 must have had a fever and the only prescription was more heavy synthesizer. While the album doesn’t quite give the apocalyptic vibe, it’s darker than, say, the Inspired Flight album.
For the beats-and-rhymes crowd who listen to this album, you’re going to have to wait a while through the record to hear verbiage. “Still Phenomenal,” featuring Sene, Co$$, and David Reyneke-favorite Homeboy Sandman, doesn’t pop up until track 18. It’s immediately followed by songs with Skyzoo, the Brown Bag All-Stars, and P.SO & Fresh Daily, with the latter two rapping over instrumentals previously showcased on the album already. They’re worth the wait, but some beats are just meant to be instrumentals. Not all producers and beat-makers can make a superior rap beat that doubles as an awesome instrumental, which is why Just Blaze will always be in high demand, especially considering his recent work (“Why You Hate the Game” and “Exhibit C” are prime examples). J57 is no Just Blaze, but who is? Digital Society is a dark foray into trip-hop, yet with just enough light in songs like “Beyond the Infinite” to not depress you (take note, people who produced the Kid Cudi album). Electronic hip-hop is on a hot streak and Digital Society is riding the wave of quality music coming from that sector, which will hopefully influence and inspire more and more dopeness from these artists.