Stones Throw describes Quakers as “a hip-hop collective boasting 35 members which orbits around a core of three producers: Fuzzface (Geoff Barrow), 7-Stu-7 and Katalyst.” For those that don’t know, Geoff Barrow is the backbone behind classic “trip-hop” pioneers Portishead, making the prospect of a hip-hop full-length produced by him quite exciting. Yet with so many members in the mix, can Quakers be looked at as truly a cohesive album?
As perhaps one of the year’s most off-kilter releases, The Quakers LP prides itself in experimentation, with a more-dusty-than-digital approach to production. It’s success or failure largely depends on it’s collaborators, as it’s wide array of talent never strikes the same chord twice. The opening track, “Big Cat”, featuring Synato Watts is a fitting introduction – a seemingly random topic built around the tracks growling jaguar, as Watts spits venom on top of it. This leads into perhaps the album’s best track, the Run DMC sampled, cinematically infused “Fitta Happier”, as Guilty Simpson and MED tear it’s raucous horns to shreds. Jonwayne makes an impressive showing on “Smoke”, where he straight abuses the track with a breathless flow that leaves him waiting to exhale.
Some fans might not appreciate the album’s more experimental collaborators, such as Coin Locker Kid on “Russia With Love” or the ODB-inspired “What Chew Want” with Tone Tank. Yet after a few listens, tracks like these settle into the consciousness and work perfectly with the rest of the album. But for such a lengthy LP, it does seem to run together in places, as lesser-known artists seem to get lost in the shuffle, or some old favorites sound past their prime. Still, the Stones Throw alum do the Quakers brand of beats justice on all fronts, such as Aloe Blacc – who shows yet another side to his style with “Sign Language” or Frank Nitty who does Dilla proud on the obvious homage “Dark City Lights”.
If the album has a major fault, it’s in it’s length, as at 40 tracks they maybe didn’t leave anything on the cutting room floor. That being said, the flow of the LP gets interrupted several times throughout with it’s more experimental, instrumental interludes, which may turn a lot of regular rap listeners off. However with this many cuts on the playlist, they also managed to show remarkable consistency, with heavy handfuls of paired-down, sample-driven beats, which is a long lost art form in itself. Make waves.
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