A very distinct set of tones has come to dominate electronic hip-hop in recent years, especially as the popularity of EDM has grown in, and besieged, the mainstream. The womp, womp, womp of a formulaic dubstep track, or the otherworldly synth jingle of a Low End Theory-style instrumental, have become so generic that it can be difficult to hear the individual creative voices of different artists within the genre.
As a listener, you either like the specific subgenre’s sound or you don’t. If you do, there is a seemingly infinite rabbit hole of like-minded artists who can give you a version of what you’re looking for. Yet the emphasis on building a unique voice that has long been at the center of hip-hop’s best often becomes secondary, simply because the subgenres are identified by shared, distinct sounds and song structures.
Of course, the best of the best can find spaces within these defining structures to build a unique voice, balancing the recognizable with unique individualism. Russian producer DZA, who is also the co-founder of independent record label “How2make,” deftly weaves the familiar strands of the genre with new sonic ideas and arrangements on Kaiju, his joint EP with fellow music-maker kidkanevil. The four-track project does not descend into the derivative, primarily because of its commitment to managing the energy of each song.
Rather than the methodical stairway of dubstep, or the even-keeled consistency of a basic trip-hop track, the intensity of each cut on Kaiju ebbs and flows, employing the musical clichés only to take them in an expected direction. For instance, “Temple” repeatedly builds to climaxes that seem to be leading the listener over a cliff and into a monster drop. However, they instead invite a sampled orchestral sample, which adds grandeur and expands the track’s scope without collapsing into mayhem.
For the listener whose ears have been assaulted with more and more of the electronic same, this short project is a refreshing and intriguing demonstration of how forward-thinking producers can craft something new in the spaces between the clichés.
3.5 out of 5
You can purchase the Kaiju EP on Bandcamp.