Compilation; No Rating Given.
Rappers have been making video game references for years. Biggie immortalized the two major game consoles of the 90s with his line, “Super Nintendo, Sega Genesis, when I was dead broke man I couldn’t picture this.” Thirteen years later, the relationship between hip hop and video games has developed an even tighter bond. Everyone from Madden to Tony Hawk have included hip hop tracks in their games, but no game publisher has gone as far as 2K Sports, who borrowed an essential aspect of hip hop, the mixtape, to promote their products and flaunt their soundtracks. The first installment was arranged by Decon Media & Okay Player with the NBA2K6 soundtrack, followed by last year’s NBA2K7 soundtrack produced by Dan the Automator. For the 2008 game line-up, 2K called on west coast heavyweight Peanut Butter Wolf to handle the selection duties. Somebody at the 2K office must have been feeling the Chrome Children mixes from earlier this year, because B-Ball Zombie War follows the same format of those albums: a who’s who of Stones Throw with no particular method to the madness. That’s okay though, because Stones Throw is currently sitting on some of the biggest names in indie hip hop, and this latest mix furthers their reputation as the West Coast’s most innovative label.
Guilty Simpson’s solo debut is so close you can taste it, so in the meantime, Detroit’s realest emcee delivers two new tracks produced by the late J Dilla to help fuel the hype. “Make it Fast” finds Guilty spitting over chopped strings reminiscent of “Tippi-Toes” by the Meters. Mr. Simpson spits like an experienced OG, with lines like, “I’ll stomp your bitch ass out, and wouldn’t scuff a kick.” His other track, “Mash’s Revenge” features MF Doom, and uses the instrumental “Mash” from J Dilla’s “Donuts” album. The understated drums allow Guilty and Doom to flaunt their typical tricks with minimal distraction.
Two Dilla tracks not enough for you? You’re in luck, as one of the heaviest tracks on B-Ball Zombie War is “Lightworking”, which is a remix of “Lightworks”-also from J Dilla’s Donuts album-with new verses from New York legends Q-Tip and Talib Kweli. Fans of Donuts are going to lose their shit when they hear the Abstract and Kweli freak this psychedelic scorcher. The final Dilla contribution is a remix of Quasimoto’s “Hydrant Game”, which trumps all previous versions.
Another instrumental track that gets revamped with lyrics is Oh No’s “Action” from his recent Dr. No’s Oxperiment. It was evident that it wouldn’t be too long before Oh No started releasing vocal versions of these tracks; they are just too damn fresh to remain word-less.
Madlib offers four tracks under four different aliases, with mixed results. His best, perhaps, is his debut as the Supreme Team with Karriem Riggins on the track “See”. They use a vocal sample of the word “see” to end each line in the fashion of the third verse of “Emcee” by J-Live (on his All of the Above album). Madlib’s solo tracks “The Wigflip” and “Trouble” simply sound like throwaways from past Beat Konducta projects.
Aloe Blacc’s track “Find A Way” is certified bananas. This self-produced gem finds Blacc crooning his way through a buttery smooth soundscape of horns and strings, and I hope this is an indicator of future endeavors.
The second half of this album contains some songs that could barely be categorized as music. Every aspect of CX Kidtronik and Tchaka Diallo’s “Big Girl, Skinny Girl” is annoying. In 2008, it’s hard to imagine anybody actually wanting to listen to these cheesy rhymes over pseudo-break production. The same goes for DJ Babu and Niko’s “Now You Know” which is a bland Babu production featuring a 4-year-old rhyming about being 4 years old. Listeners might feel outside of the loop with some inside joke at Stones Throw, but either way it’s curious as to why PB Wolf included these tunes on this project. Aside from those disasters, however, B-Ball Zombie War is the best Stones Throw Comp thus far, and provides a genuine look inside one of the most eclectic record labels in the game. – Chris Seeger
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