Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. There’s this rapper from Atlanta, although to call...
DJBooth Album Review
Sound familiar? While the intro above could apply to Andre, B.o.B. and a handful of other ATL rappers (seriously, what do they put in the water there?), today it’s an apt description of the constantly bearded, often-hooded Aleon Craft. Having made his mark with his group Da Backwudz, Aleon’s continuing to pull fans into his orbit with his new mixalbum The Stargazing Soundtrack, a far-reaching project created in conjunction with SMKA that admittedly not everyone will enjoy. You know what? Fine. They can stay here on Earth while us more adventurous folk enjoy the cosmic scenery. (That just sounded super hippie, didn’t it?)
I have to say, Aleon’s style is an acquired taste. Unlike the onslaught of candy bar rappers (enjoyable, but you’re hungry five minutes later) being shoved down our throats daily, Aleon’s perpetually breathy, drawn out, strangely accented flow is more like well-aged Scotch. You take a sip and have to pause as it burns your taste buds for a moment. Then you take another sip, and another, and before you know it, you’re hammered and ordering a fourth drink. Did that make any sense? Let me be more specific: the first time I heard Aleon, on the pounding ode to gorilla-sized booty Donkey Kong, I just didn’t connect. And then, thirty minutes later I was hearing Aleon’s hazy hook running through my head, and when it was still there later that night I had to log back onto the Booth for another listen. So by the time Stargazing’s next track rolled along, A Different World, I was ready, or at least I thought I was. While I knew enough to press play in the kind of mellowed out mood conducive to Aleon enjoyment, here Aleon’s lyrics revealed a far more personal, soulful and strongly rooted rapper than we heard on Donkey Kong. It wouldn’t be the first time Aleon broke my expectations. From the inspirational and smooth Brand New Day to the love, or something like it, ballad Early Moan, which he incongruously begins by whispering “supermarket knife attack” (um….ok then), The Stargazing Soundtrack’s only rule is that there are no rules.
Of course, while Aleon’s name may be at the top of the Stargazing marquee, ATL production team SMKA, spearheaded here by 808 Blake (of The 808 Experiment fame), deserve just as much credit. If Stargazing were Avatar, Aleon would be Jake Sully and SMKA would be Col. Quaritch. They may not be the star, but without their powerful performance the movie wouldn’t be nearly as compelling. (Goddamn that was a dope analogy. Props to me.) Not only do SMKA provide the fuel for Aleon’s experimentation, several tracks reveal a master hand solely on the production’s merits alone. As catchy as its chopped beat may sound at first, it’s Yoga Flame’s final minute, when the song unexpectedly morphs into a country-stomping, Southern rock anthem, that truly distinguishes itself. Who else would launch a track like Yoga Flame into such a wildly unexpected direction? Sorry, that was a rhetorical question. No one. The same goes for Time Machine, a cut that finds, much to my personal delight, SMKA sampling the uncaterogizable (yeah, I know it’s not a word) band Cake, and just for good measure, the atmospheric Break Room delivers a quasi-rock jam worthy of fellow dope weirdo and Atlanta resident Cee-Lo. Not to discredit Aleon’s sizable contributions, but in many ways Stargazing Soundtrack owes its high relistenability (also not a word) factor first and foremost to SMKA.
Like in any lab, not every experiment on The Stargazing Soundtrack carried out works. Back to the D.E.C.’s television theme show vibe is interesting, but a cut like this demands more muscular production – the vocals completely overwhelm the beat – and there’s a fine line between minimalistic and disconnected, and Wayne unfortunately ends up on the wrong side of the line (especially considering the deeply personal subject matter). But falters like these are the price we pay for greatness, and it’s such a small price I won’t waste another syllable discussing it. Instead, let us celebrate The Stargazing Soundtrack as another shot fired in the war against mediocrity and predictability, a war I’m proud to be fighting alongside Aleon Craft and SMKA.
DJBooth Rating - 4 Spins
Written by Nathan S. on Aug 18, 2010
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