Dan the Automator is no doubt one of hip-hop’s most creative and technically sound producers. 1996′s Dr. Octagon, perhaps his most heralded project, helped redefine and regenerate interest in hip-hop during a lull of creativity at the time. His projects are revered, and his long list of collaborators is only matched by a handful of modern producers working today.
His latest endeavor, 2K7: The Tracks is not only a collaboration album filled with independent and commercial emcees, but will also serve as the soundtrack for a [basketball] videogame of the same name. With this in mind, the vocals on the album are all loosely tied together with basketball metaphors, bouncy-uptempo production and primarily battle raps.
On the independent side of the spectrum, Automator teams up with Aceyalone and Rakaa(of Dilated Peoples), Hieroglyphics, Zion I and Rhymefest. Although the talent here is abundant, the tracks are easily forgettable. “Don’t hate the player, hate the game” repeatedly yells Casual, on the Hiero track “Don’t Hate The Player.” With cliche’s like this abound and uninspired rhymes about dunking and passing a basketball, many of these tracks are snoozers that wouldn’t even merit b-side status.
Other tracks that feature celebrated emcees, unfortunately, are also unmoving. Names like Mos Def, E-40 and San Quinn, Slim Thug, Lupe Fiasco and Ghostface are all collaborations worthy of interest, but the end result are bland songs that contain no cohesiveness, creativity or chemistry between the talent involved. Like the collaborations with independent emcees, these tracks are also filled with lyrics like “off the glass” and “no look pass” or “lyrical fadeaway”- all of which is hollow writing, which seemingly serve to kill track time.
Amongst the lackluster offerings, however, are two standout tracks; Jurassic 5′s Chali 2Na and Tribe Called Quest both deliver strong raps over typically solid Automator beats. Chali 2Na comes with his usual crisp delivery(“Anchor Man”) and the Tribe Called Quest track (“Lyrics To Go”) is actually a remix of the original classic, meshing well over a tension-and-release beat by Automator. In comparison to the rest of the project, these songs live up to the promise that this project reflected before its actual listen.
Again, it must be noted that this project is for a videogame soundtrack, which usually translates into artists submitting throwaway tracks for a nice chunk of change. The weak basketball-related lyrics are purposeful, given the videogame it was written for, and the production probably couldn’t have been as wide-ranging as Automator usually aims for. Moreover, 2K7 is still a letdown, given Automator’s reign of consistency with projects like Gorillaz, Deltron 3030, and the Handsome Boy projects. With all the noteworthy emcees involved, one would also expect more than what they delivered, while the bland beats progressed little in comparison to Automator’s past epic production. So in summation, this release does work well as a videogame soundtrack- but as an album, it comes off tremendously trite. Thus, the pitfalls of this project is a reflection that it’s a videogame soundtrack, rather than a reflection of the aptitude and direction of the artists involved. Hopefully.
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