Next out of the gate for Definitive Jux is the debut album from Hangar 18, another NYC based crew repping the Atoms Family (Vast Aire, Cryptic One), made up of emcees Alaska and Windnbreeze, along with deejay/producer paWL. Taking a purposely generic marketing approach, the crew follows-up The Shameless Self-Promotional Mix CD with The Multi-Platinum Debut Album, however in tradition of Def Jux, this album is anything but generic, and more “defiantly different”, as the label’s credo suggests.
As probably one of the most original albums of the year, Hangar 18′s debut meets at the crossroads of 1980′s Run DMC jams and pre-millennial Co-Flow-isms, yet more playful, with several tributes to bars, booze, and booty. These are the two sides to the Hangar, which manifest themselves throughout each of the 16 Pawl produced tracks, each one leaning heavier in either direction. The lead off single, “Where We At?” puts Hangar in their element, in the form of a vocabulary rich b-boy anthem with the same spaced-out aesthetic that propelled Cannibal Ox’s The Cold Vien. The same can be said for tracks like the off-the-wall electro-drum propelled “Go Git That”, and the especially impressive “Saved By The Beezy”, where Alaska and Wind compete with breathless verses at the Mardi Gras.
While these songs will undoubtedly inspire windmills and backflips, the other side of the Hangar 18 will instead suggest lesser stressing body movements, such as inhaling and head-nodding. This is best defined on “Take No Chances”, where the duo ponder their own respective existences over Pawl’s haunting pianos and eerie electrical interference, led by a ridiculously spit hook in double (or is that quadruple?) time. And again on “Boombox Apocalypse” and “Hangar 18 & The Temple Of Doom”, both of which channel the production style of El-P through Pawl’s concoctions.
Yet where similarities and inspiration lie, undoubtedly an original sound in Hangar 18 has been defined. Nevertheless, throughout the sixteen tracks, among the varying styles present here, one can’t escape the monotony throughout the release. While it’s hard to pinpoint if this is because of the wall-to-wall Pawl beats, or the all-too-similar rhyme styles of Wind and Alaska (or a combination of the three), but at times it’s hard to pinpoint one track from another. This cohesiveness does keep a uniform sound throughout the album, but also hinders it at the same time.
Hangar’s debut is an honest and integral hip-hop record, yet like so many others, it may be a bit too far ahead of its time for people to notice. However the seeds of genius start with records like this, and if H18 were to keep on with consistent follow-up LP’s, critics could be singing a different tune in years to come, dubbing this, The Classic Debut Album instead.
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