Plenty of hip hop producers proclaim their sound to be one that harks back to the “glory days” or so called “Golden Era”. Kid Tsunami’s debut album “The Chase” is another showcase for a group of established (and often revered) emcees to spit gems, but never feels like it’s trying to be something it’s not. Many projects still cling on to any connection they may have with artists from two decades ago, maintaining their realness and how they will always remain “street”. Where many of these projects fail is their warped view of hard beats, implementing orchestral and industrious samples in their work to create a false sense of intensity. Less is more has never been more apt, with albums like Mobb Deep’s “Hell On Earth” still sounding dark and moody, while Canibus’ “Rip the Jacker” feels a tad ridiculous with its overblown instrumentals. There’s also the assumption that all good hip hop made back in the day was HARD – it wasn’t. Some of the greatest songs, even by HARD rappers were playfully executed – the Wu-Tang Clan are a perfect example of this. While this debut from producer Kid Tsunami is more A Tribe Called Quest than Wu-Tang, there’s a rare bond between the beats and rappers at play throughout this record that feels effortlessly fresh.
Given that there are a large percentage of experienced emcees involved on this project, there is inevitably an underlying agenda from some rappers claiming that hip hop was better back in the day – that goes without saying. J-Live adds some fiery remarks in his second verse for “What It Was”, with more than a subtle jab at Celph Titled and other emcees making a name for themselves off of the whole 90s East Coast movement. KRS-One is surprisingly surreal on “These Are The Facts”, even stating that he has got better with age. Having owned most of his work, and finding that much of the Blastmaster’s recent work has been decent yet flawed (particularly musically), it’s good to hear him with fire in his belly regardless of how deluded he may be. Fire in the belly is exactly what Tsunami brings out in this who’s who list at the Rap Retirement Home – Masta Ace even documents the story of an elderly emcee with grey hair that still drops excellent freestyles (“Twothousand40”). With hip hop still yet to really possess any rhymers aged 50 and beyond, it raises the question as to whether these guys featured on “The Chase” will still be doing this in 10-20 years time. Rock stars still do, so why not rap stars?
There’s some superb examples of how Tsunami has captured that much coveted timelessness that every producer craves. Lacing A.G. with “The First Letter”; an upbeat headnodder that just seems so simple yet works flawlessly, with A.G.’s presence complementing proceedings nicely. With so many artists popping up throughout “The Chase”, you’d think there would be some areas the record stutters, but there simply isn’t. Sean Price adds some light-hearted raps to “Bang Exclusive” over some suitably hard snares evoking memories of Heltah Skeltah’s first albums. O.C. catches wreck on the surprisingly named “Catch Wreck”, and Pharoahe Monch decimates the final track “The Chase”, showcasing precisely why he is widely regarded as a Top 5 emcee. Chubb Rock and Jeru the Damaja are showing their age, but they just about keep up with Buckshot on the speedy drums provided by Tsunami, which stops each emcee from resting on their laurels. Pharoahe still sounds hungry though, and it’s a brilliant way to end an album that sounds cohesive, authentic and ultimately refreshing. There is a genuine freshness to Kid Tsunami’s style of production here that is somehow familiar yet contemporary. It’s not going to blow up, or be recognised as a life-changing moment in hip hop, because it is nothing more than a dope producer providing beats for a group of veteran rappers. Despite this becoming a common theme with producers making their name by selling their work to legendary figures, Kid Tsunami isn’t obsessed with raw, dull sounds that many up and comers are, he breathes life in to his songs and in turn gives a bunch of forty-somethings a new lease of life. If Kid Tsunami can keep producing albums as strong as “The Chase”, others will inevitably be playing catch-up.