The freshest tracks to come out of the 206 in a minute, which is saying a lot. These three individuals have a lot of history between them. Through them, you hear the formation of Northwest hip-hop: You have The Fourth Party, you have Blind Council, you have Jasiri. You have Silent Lambs. You hear beats by Vitamin D, you hear beats by King Otto. These are some of the supreme rulers of 206 hip-hop, the originators of the style. And like the masters they are, they know how to mold raw materials into something new and unseen.
Black Stax manages to push the boundaries of hip-hop into unknown regions. This has been labeled “Avant guard”, and for lack of a better term, it works. For although the formula of mixed-gender, jazzy hip-hop has been played time and time again with similar results, the Stax turns it inside out and upside down, making it unrecognizable, and ultimately much purer than past experiments. Listen to the projects of some of the jazz greats – Ayler, Sanders, Coltrane – you listen to their albums and you don’t hear songs. You don’t get anything that structured. You get impressions. You get feelings, you get swept away by pure emotion.
With Black Stax’s music, you are left in similar care. This album isn’t a collection of songs. This is more a tapestry of sound and emotion, a Burroughsian cut-up experiment on the sonic level, taking what we knew, deconstructing it, distilling it, and ultimately bringing it back into sharper focus. There is none of the linear progression we’ve been trained to expect to hear. You are required to unfocus your ears and allow the music to rewire your mind. This is hip-hop reaching its maturity. Buy the record and let it wash over you. Put it on loop. Let it be your soundtrack. Listen to what they have to say and how they say it. With each listen, let it blow your mind a little more. (This review originally appeared on the Bring That Beat Back blog and was written by Jack Devo.)