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Scratch (Of The Roots), if you’re not familiar with by now, is that integral ‘human-instrumental’ member of The Roots ensemble, amazing fans worldwide from stage to stage with his vocal variations in sound. Now with his first solo release, the purpose and true entertainment value of listening to a human beat box for an entire album, takes on a somewhat different outlook. Similar to albums that focus on turntablism (Rob Swift or The Allies), the nature of listening to The Embodiment of Instrumentation, as opposed to seeing Scratch perform these feats live, is sort of like listening to the NBA Finals on AM radio. You’d much prefer instead to view the action on NBC television!

But all isn’t lost for this organic producer, who literally breathes in and (mostly) out to push a little bump in the bass line on “U Know The Rulez” featuring Black Thought, Malik B, and M.A.R.S. Co-Op. If you’re one of those avid hip hop fans that can be moved by passionate rhyming only, despite the beats and music accompanying being secondary, this LP is still worth storing close by. Tons of emcees, especially from Philly’s underground, shed their skin to spa with Scratch’s blood, sweat and tears, even as real horns layer over his dexterity in tongue-knocking rhythms on “That’s What We Talkin’ About” featuring Dice Raw, Calienté and E.S.T. At times, even light percussion and drumming accompany Scratch, like on Bilal’s “Square One”, just to beef up the skeletal feel that may sometimes bore you to skipping to the next track. The jam session really gets swinging into a thickness as real instruments try to sneak next to Scratch’s head-nodding pattern on “Breath Of Fresh Air”, an interlude featuring musicians such as Sherif Davis, Ridij Mateen and Jarrett Miles. Very jazzy in its feel and even a bit up-tempo, out of the sixteen tracks, its title is just as refreshing as “What Happ’n” by Floetry, the songstress duo from England.

People’s tastes are either totally forced in straying away from the “hip-pop” that the art form has become, while others are also letting their ears explore. In any case, if you’re willing to digest the minimalist chunks of beats, bass, treble and sound effects, this human beat box foray is right up your alley. Hard to resist, “Sumthin’ That U Missing” featuring Flo Brown, Spon, Ciph Born and D-Ruc, has undoubtedly the most infectious underground taste when an addictive guitar-loop shoots you down the highway to heaven at a fast intoxicating pace. There are few theatrics, but on “The Morning After skit” Scratch wakes himself up by his own human alarm, while Jill Scott sings in the background – very cute. While just a bit limited as far as what you may be accustomed to in a hip hop album, this debut by Scratch can still be especially satisfying for those who are cutting back on their intake of too much out there.

  Mixtape D.L.
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