On the surface punk rock and hip-hop don’t have much in common, but a deeper look reveals that the two seemingly polarized genres are really just different manifestations of the same thing. Both were created to fight oppression, both proclaim a do-it-yourself-ethos and fans of both desperately try to keep their favorite artists caged. Frankly, until I listed to Travis Barker’s new album, Can the Drummer Get Some, I had only considered cross-genre efforts in the direction of rap to rock, efforts that have largely led hip-hop heads to beg their mic idols to drop …
DJBooth Album Review
“I’ve always been a confused kid and I’ve never grown up out of that. I listened to all types of music and no one judged me for it, and if they did, I told them to go f**k themselves." If that quote didn’t make Barker’s position on genre blending clear, one listen to Give the Drummer Some, which is itself a classic Ultramagnetic MCs song, should make things perfectly clear. Barker is not an impostor or a trespasser. He clearly loves music in all forms and this album is proof of his abilities to meld the two in forms that sound organic and unforced.
We first got a feel for Drummer Some’s sound on The Cool Kids assisted Jump Down, and while the track was nice, ultimately it sounded simply like the Kids replaced their normally heavy and minimal percussion with a live drummer. Thankfully the album is much more than an exercise in replacing a MPC with a drum set, as we hear powerfully on the hauntingly dark Devil’s Got a Hold of Me. On Devil’s Got a Hold Barker’s rhythms serve as not only as accompaniment but as an essential foundation for the men of Slaughterhouse to crush mics. We can say the same of the aggressively bouncing Let’s Go which, aggravating Lil Jon hook aside, allows Twista, Yelawolf and Busta, who’s in vintage form here, to flex their voices as instruments, and on the intricately layered City of Dreams. These are much more than experiments or gimmicks, they’re dope songs.
While most will likely focus on Barker’s physical drum playing, and for good reason, the man’s a human metronome on speed, thinking of Travis’ contributions to Give the Drummer Some merely in terms of his drumming would be to miss the forest for the trees. Was that the right analogy? Whatever, the point is that instead of snare hits and cymbal crashes Barker’s real contribution came from behind the boards – he’s got a production credit on every one of the album’s tracks. By the same token he’s often paired with other producers, and when it works, like on the RZA influenced Carry It, it really works. Unfortunately, when it doesn’t work, it really doesn’t. Swizz Beatz clips Barker’s wings and turns him into a human drum loop on Can a Drummer Get Some (the mediocre verses from Lil Wayne, Rick Ross and other heavyweights don’t help either). Similarly, despite an initial onslaught of work Barker’s force into the background on the overly hazy Knockin and Pharrell’s trademark horns and style dominate If U Want To, which also features an either terrible or genius verse from Lupe Fiasco, I haven’t decided which yet.
Still, even on tracks when rock and rap go together a little more like chocolate and mayonnaise than chocolate and peanut butter, Give the Drummer Some allows us to hear our favorite rappers flow over beats they’d never otherwise touch, an exercise that also helps highlight truly dynamic emcees from the more monotone. The aforementioned Mr. Fiasco? Dynamic. Beanie Sigel? Not so much. So if for nothing else hip-hop owes Barker a round of applause for helping expand an often stifled genre’s boundaries. Hey Travis, if they’re not giving you love over on the rock side, you’re more than welcome over here in Hip-Hop Nation. Feel free to stop by anytime.
DJBooth Rating - 3.5 Spins
Written by Nathan S. on 03/21/11
First DJ Booth Appearance:
"Dope Boys ft. Travis Barker" (2008)
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