Statik Selektah is one of the hardest working producers in the rap game. The guy has produced for pretty much anyone who’s anyone, and his compilation albums have often showcased some of his finest instrumentals. When he first dropped 2007’s “Stop, Look & Listen” people were proclaiming him as the next DJ Premier, and although I wouldn’t put him on that lofty pedestal (even now), he has certainly put out some music that has bettered Premo’s latest, less frequent work. What has bugged me about Statik is his recent projects have lacked the aggressive energy tracks like “For The City” and “Get Out The Way” had. Despite “Extended Play” having more of these raw “bangers”, it is still a mixed offering. Minus the iffy introduction “Reloaded”, the album starts well. “Birds Eye View” (featuring The Wu-Tang Clan’s Raekwon, The Roots’ Black Thought and Pro-Era’s Joey Badass) is another argument for Black Thought to be in the Top 10 emcees EVER list. Raekwon does Raekwon (over a deliciously Wu-style beat) and Joey Badass brings his distinctive delivery, yet struggles to keep up with the two veterans. Black Thought though, god damn the guy BODIES this shit. Even as a huge MOP fan, Lil Fame’s ramblings on “East Coast” are usurped by Noreaga who rolls back the years with some trademark random nonsense rap. After his better than expected “Student of the Game” album, he sounds like a new rapper. It’s not often Fame sounds pedestrian, but without Danze backing him up he just blends in to the track. “21 & Over” sees a Styles P sample proclaiming “if you’re under 21 you shouldn’t listen to this”, which highlights the clear direction “Extended Play” operates in – 90s rap beats with 90s rappers talking about how great 90s rap was. Sean Price features, but Mac Miller is the surprise here. OK, perhaps it’s not given his previous history with Lord Finesse, but it’s nice to see an emcee who can break in to the pop charts be given a spot on such a gritty, underground release.
The last few Statik Selektah records (“1982”, Reks’ “Straight No Chaser”) have lacked a viciousness that his earlier work possessed. Thankfully “Extended Play” has a greater abundance of grimy tracks: “Funeral Season” is atypical Styles P music, drenched in death and Bun B’s presence is as sinister as its ever been. “Bring Em Up Dead” samples the classic Onyx song of the same name and the militant drums, crunching horns and somber strings help Joell Ortiz out more than perhaps they should do. It’s not often I’ll say this but Joell strays in to the generic side of hip hop, especially when he starts talking about his penis. Come on son, you’re better than this. Probably my favourite song on the record is “My Hoe”, featuring Blu, Evidence and Reks. Statik delivers a cracking, dusty break with an irresistible vocal sample that makes the track the thinking man’s “Birds Eye View”. Lyrically, Reks and Blu are as strong as you’d expect, but the Evidence verse sounds like somebody just kicked him in the nether regions right before he went in the booth,
The rest of the album is decidedly hit and miss. “Camouflage Dons” (featuring Smif-N-Wessun & Flatbush Zombies) is your first real skippable song, primarily because of the garbage production. It doesn’t even sound like Statik Selektah was associated with it. “Big City of Dreams” is ANOTHER song about New York, this time featuring a quartet of up and comers. The main thing is, it’s not worth your time. There must be scores of better songs about New York City, all with better rapping. “Gz, Pimps, Hustlers” is frustrating more than anything, with Wais P spitting the best verse I’ve heard from him, and Slaine comes equally impressive – but Statik supplies a weak beat (and teases a wickedly precise scratch). What strikes me is the fact there are three emcees on this song but only Wais P and Slaine are credited. Did Statik start spitting? Somebody let me know.
The line up hasn’t changed much over the course of Statik’s discography and it is more of the same essentially. Termanology is ever present, and Joey Badass brings his buzz to try and bring some younger listeners in – despite “21 and Over” proudly stating that if you’re under 21 you shouldn’t listen to this. The problem many of Statik Selektah’s compilations suffer from is the fact that some emcees put a lot more effort in than others (Black Thought, Reks, Slaine, Noreaga), because they still sound like they want to impress. The end of the record in particular, is solid enough hip hop but far from memorable. It’s largely emcees rapping a 16-bar brought together by scratched hooks. Again and again. “Stop, Look & Listen” and “Stick 2 The Script” got away with it because Statik was relatively fresh, providing a boom bap sound that was often as good as anything ANY producer was releasing. Combining it with dream combinations of some of the game’s most well-loved emcees, they were good records. There are of course, a ton of hip hop producers that provide that throwback sound, but it seems Statik has lost some of his rawness. For me, it started after the 24-hour project with Saigon, then when he provided average beats for Action Bronson on a project, and then dry sounds for Reks on “Straight No Chaser”. The 1982 project was highly disappointing, and thankfully “Extended Play” does have a better ratio of dope headnodders than his last few records, and is certainly his best record in five years – It’s just all getting a bit samey.