(Artwork care of Karen Ramsay (www.karenramsay.com), profile photo care of brianlackeyphotography.com)

Monday, November 28, 2011

CD review - Lateef the Truthspeaker, FireWire (2011)

Versatile rapper showcases his musical range

Lateef the Truthspeaker is most well known for his partnership with Lyrics Born and collaborations with artists like Fatboy Slim. His new solo album, FireWire offers a good sense of Lateef's creative breadth. His backing music comes from widely separated sectors of the musical map, from indie rock to standard soul beats. The focus is on his loose, conversational flow, but he's not afraid to throw down and sing or structure a verse-chorus style song.

That diversity makes FireWire an entertaining listen, but the production adds its own intrigue. Glitched, overlapping samples and electronic processing create a mix of old and new. The sounds are fresh, but the idea of a more studio focused hip hop album feels like a retro touch.

Take Oakland, for instance. The glitched R&B pop radio start sets a mood, but it quickly drifts into another space. The guitars and layering feel like indie rock, but there's a shimmery electro sheen that reveals the hybrid nature. The music, though, takes a back seat to the joyous celebration of Lateef's home town:
I come from the planet of Oakland
We got our own slang, own twang that's spoken
And it don't matter what race you are
Everybody pullin' strings like a bass guitar
The relaxed flow is easy to follow.

Compare that with the jazzy, Latin beat of Heckuvit. Its parts are layered as well, but the laid back vibe contrasts with the snappy lyrical delivery. Check out the flow on the chorus:
I make the melody move with a new alacrity
Doing what few can actually do,
I do with an elegance

I use the words with a nerve, it's almost absurd
And I'm told, if it's not for money
A purchase that it is irrelevant

But get that gallery out in front of an audience

Microphone in their palm
And they're small and out of their element

While I'm rockin' 'em, shockin' 'em with my talkin'

Ask me why I do it
Well, I do it for the heckuvit.
My favorite track, though, is Say What You Want, produced by DJ Shadow. The tight, spooky groove sets a lo-fi garage rock mood. The tension in the music supports the repressed anxiety of the lyrics, which spin out a story of hurt and vengeance. The verses are breathy as Lateef sings them and the hooky chorus is pop perfection.

Other tracks throw down some sonic surprises. Hardship Enterprise features a techno beat and a robotic guest vocal from Lyrics Born. Lateef also delivers some synth pop flavored new wave vibes, like We The People or Left Alone. Lateef's singing on Left Alone is solid, showing another tool in his versatile arsenal.

FireWire is a strong indication of Lateef the Truthspeaker's range. Check it out and find your own favorite sounds.

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