While the late 90′s / turn-of-the-millenium independent hip-hop scene produced a lot of duds still collecting dust on record store shelves (ahem), there we’re also a handful of diamonds in the rough. Sure, artists like MF Doom, Atmosphere, Aesop Rock, and Madlib have become household names to underground fans (and mainstream haters), but there’s a second generation of independent allstars that came through after the initial onslaught who have just barely broken through, and made a name for themselves. Edan is one of these artists, who delivered his incredible debut album, Primitive Plus in 2002, a self-produced tribute to ’80′s hip-hop, from a dude that was born just around the same time as hip-hop itself.
Beauty and The Beat picks up where his debut left off, but takes the artist in a new direction. This time influenced by 60′s psychedelic rock, Beauty and The Beat borrows plenty of samples from the Woodstock era, yet fuses them with Edan’s signature lo-fi boom bap and fresh-for-88 lyrical delivery. But while Edan’s style has always been rooted in the sounds of the past, through his lyrical content, he still keeps things interesting without pigeonholing himself as a “retro” emcee.
The album is jumped off with “Funky Voltron”, finding Edan trading mics with frequent fellow Boston partner in rhyme, Insight, as the two allow a moment to introduce themselves over a dirty funk loop, complete with positive affirmations from sampled singing soul sisters. While this track is rooted in the usual dirty funk that Edan is usually associated with, he shifts courses on following tracks “I See Colours”, an ode to pink elephants “without the LSD”. And again on, “Fumbling Over Words Over That Rhyme”, which acts as a quick rundown of the evolution of 15 years of classic hip-hop artists, giving even the most educated head a piece of unknown knowledge (check yourselves, Pitchfork).
After these opening cuts set the stage for the album, things really start to get interesting. “Murder Mystery” is a completely stoned narrative where Edan paints a beautiful one-verse portrait, which leads right into the ridiculous “Torture Chamber”, the first in a series of three raw, mic-ripping collaborations. Here, we find Edan teaming up with the legendary Percee-P, for a take-no-prisoners lesson in Ultra-esque battle rhyming. Followed with “Making Planets”, we find Edan opening the cut over a mellow bassline “laying the foundation for future foundations”, with a surprise appearance from Mr. Lif, who comes out of nowhere spitting lyrical witchcraft (which sounds a lot doper on wax than it does on paper). Finally, “Rock and Roll” completes the trilogy, as Edan crafts one of his illest beats yet, on the backbone of chopped guitars and dirty drums, as virtual unknown, Dagha, makes a name for himself ripping mics with classic 80′s delivery and attitude.
Towards the end of the album, things get even iller; such is the case of “Beauty”, a three and half-minute excursion that somewhat picks up where “Murder Mystery” left off. Here Edan “uses pens like hallucinogens”, splashing the canvas with another poetically dope and equally strange narrative, that recalls trips to Twin Peaks’ Black Lodge, if not acting as the rap equivalent to a Salvador Dali painting. He winds things down with “Smile”, a somewhat depressing narrative about the run-off-the-mill sad clown emcee, built brilliantly off of the sampled hook which tells the same story. The album ends with “Promised Land”, the ultimate in rap braggadocio, as Edan casually recounts times that he “did a show on a fireball” and “punched the sphinx in the nose ’til the nose decomposed”, among other great feats.
Beauty and The Beat presents a more focused, more mature, but equally weird Edan, and presents equal satisfaction, if not more, than his debut did. Once again showcasing equal talent both behind the board and on the mic, Edan is a representative of an artist with longevity in hip-hop - one who will forever be able to make a record, without having to rely on someone else to produce or rap it for him. At only 35 minutes in length, there is little room for error, instead just a tightly knit package. As one long, continuous, evolving piece of music, Beauty and The Beat plays like this year’s answer to Madvillainy - an experimental, intelligent hip-hop album, in it’s essence. While this type of thing might not be for everyone, longtime fans and hopefully many new ones will appreciate the trip.
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