Things come along, present themselves, and then in certain cases, resonate directly with the culture. The climate is right, the window of opportunity is open, the right person seizes it, and the perfect storm takes place. Case in point might be something like Star Wars in the 80′s or Arrested Development in the Bush era, both of which are deemed classics by their respective audiences. Nostalgia makes us wish we could return to those eras, corporate America picks up on this, so we get modern sequels (or prequels) and they are never able to capture the magic of the originals. 90′s Oakland hip-hop crew, Hieroglyphics, reform after a long hiatus for The Kitchen, which unfortunately begs a “too many cooks” pun.
On one hand, it’s nice to see the crew back together, as it shows a true love for their craft. However notably absent is long-time producer Domino, who is the unsung hero of the Hieroglyphics crew, responsible for shaping the sound on virtually all of their classics, whether in solo or group efforts. Taking the load instead is Opio, who keeps the spirit of Hiero alive on songs like “Wshores Galore” or “Highway Five”, both cuts which find them painting pictures of the respective Bay Area scene, with feel good, groovy production. However it doesn’t always fare so well. “Indonesia” inexplicably includes an off-beat bell-ringing sound that clutters the track, making it borderline unlistenable. Worse yet, the beat is revisited four tracks later on “Indonesia Interlude” for a turntablist routine, that irritates like a painful ringing in the ear.
The choice to include turntablism on the album is respectful of DJ culture, however does not fit here. Rather than simply having a DJ cut up some hooks, many of the tracks, such as “It’s Partly Me” and “Nano Salt” are disrupted by beat-juggling routines that really throw the listener off. While this is technical feat that might impress us at a DMC competition, it has no place on an album you’re trying to bob your head to.
Despite some of these faults, The Kitchen is not a bad album, it’s just very middle of the road. While Hiero has had a series of hits and misses throughout their long, storied career, when they come together as whole, especially this late in the game, fans deserve a better product.
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