Think about your favorite hip-hop albums that feature one producer and many rappers. Maybe it’s one of Automator’s mix albums. Or more recently maybe it’s something like BK-One’s joint with his RSE posse, or the Jazz Liberatorz – Clin d’Oeil. Whatever album you have in mind, chances are one thing reigns true: there is some semblance of consistency and flow from the album’s start to finish. These types of albums are incredibly difficult to pull off because quite often the producer in charge of the album crafts each song on a case-by-case basis, thinking more about the artists with whom he or she is collaborating, rather than thinking about the album as a whole.
Unfortunately, the latter is exactly the case with Headnodic’s debut solo album, Red Line Radio. Let me kick this off by setting the record straight – Headnodic is a wicked producer. Take a look at his discography and any doubts about his talent are immediately wiped clear. And even here on Red Line Radio, his skill as a producer is overwhelmingly obvious, which makes it that much more difficult to discover that the album is sorely lacking.
To be fair, it should come as no surprise that Headnodic is all over the place on this album, struggling to stick to a core idea or set of thematic elements to tie it all together. After all, this is a guy whose career has spanned both coasts and dozens of various sub-genres (within hip-hop, that is). For example, the smooth, lounge-y jazz of the instrumental track “Carpe Noctum” and the bossa-nova groove of “The Mondays” is pleasant, but stands in such stark contrast to the grittier, slick-spitting tracks just adjacent.
It doesn’t help that certain tracks are just downright annoying, such as “Haven’t You Heard”, which features a pitchy, repetitive vocal sample over erratic keys. “Surgeon General” with People Under The Stairs literally sounds like it was stripped right from The Next Step (and not the good half of that album); it does little to help the album progress.
Still, for all its woes, the album isn’t without some extraordinarily bright spots. Take the title track, which features Raashan Ahmad and Moe Pope (whatup, Mission?). Moe wrecks everything in his path as he proceeds to “kill the radio” all while Headnodic’s signature bass booms in the background. It’s quite a delight. Then there’s “The A M”, which is much more of a homage to early 90s rap records, featuring a textured backdrop, fit for the likes of Othello, Aima and DJ Vajra, as they wax poetic about their varied outlooks on what it means to live well. Now, if only the elements of tracks like these could be stretched for the full 52-minute affair.