There’s a special place in my heart for albums like Reasonable Doubt and Hell Hath No Fury that start with a Latino guy talking shit. I’ve realized that since I can’t rap, it’s my only chance of appearing on a rap album. It’s just one of the ritual practices of East Coast street rap that Statik Selektah employs on Extended Play, an album stocked with the expected slamming boom-bap and gritty verses delivered by some of the scene’s legends, including Raekwon, Sean Price, Prodigy, N.O.R.E., and Lil Fame. But don’t dismiss this as a Golden Era circle-jerk that goes out of its way to hit you over the head with how “mid-‘90s New York” it sounds. Yes, even though Joey Bada$$ appears, this isn’t the case. Statik Selektah uses Extended Play as an opportunity to showcase a diverse array of sounds, letting his talented guests rhyme over beats organically orchestrated specifically for them.
Extended Play maintains a balance between the expected tougher fare, including Joell Ortiz’s grim “Bring Em Up Dead” and N.O.R.E. and Lil Fame’s booming but awkwardly homophobic “East Coast”, and more jazz-and-soul-influenced cuts like Action Bronson’s “The Spark”. Statik gives us another installment of Freddie Gibbs and Termanology on the same track in order to answer the age-old question: “What would Freddie Gibbs sound like if he rapped over some A Tribe Called Quest beats?” The answer: fantastic. Gangsta Gibbs, now free of those Jeezy hand-me-down cut-rate beats that he was stuck with at CTE, should do whatever he can to keep working with Madlib and like-minded, musically-inclined producers, not beatmakers. Speaking of Madlib and dusty soul samples, Statik Selektah pulls that sound off quite well for “My Hoe” with Blu, Evidence, and Reks. For all of Blu’s inconsistencies, somehow sample-heavy lo-fi beats are rap steroids to him.
Similar to Harry Fraud’s Adrift, Extended Play stays fresh despite running 18 songs deep, a testament to Statik Selektah’s abilities as a producer and his willingness to experiment. Despite his background as an East Coast disciple of the DJ Premier school of production, his beats are not beholden to strictly boom-bap and scratching some vocal samples for the hook. While some of the songs have these elements, they do not define the album. He approaches Extended Play the way a coach executes a gameplan: he puts his players, in this case, the rappers, in a position to succeed. Aside from putting Joey Bada$$ on a track with Raekwon and Black Thought (let those legends cook!), the guests and the beats are aligned just so, that a longer album such as this is a joy rather than a chore.