If any artists got my attention this year Cut Chemist was easily the standout amongst them all. I’ve always been aware of him mind you. It’s just that up until now he remained a background character to me. J5 are cool, but the novelty wore off for me a while ago. I knew about Ozomatli, but personally never got into them too much. Alphabet Aerobics and Chemical Calisthenics by Blackalicious are great tracks, but his presence there was overwhelmed by my enthusiasm for Gift of Gab and Chief Xcel.
Up until this year what I recognized Cut Chemist for the most was his roll in Product Placement with DJ Shadow. I’ve been a Shadow fan for a long time and of course anybody that shared equal billing with one of my favorite DJ’s of all time not once, but twice (see Brainfreeze) will make me notice.
me and DJ Shadow
Enter The Outsider, stage left. My thoughts on the album aside, I had been waiting for it all year and did not get the album I was expecting. But all the while I had been waiting for Shadow’s album to step into the scene, I had been neglecting the brilliant performance that was already being shown by The Audience’s Listening which had dropped a few months earlier.
I read in an interview somewhere else that he wanted to create a “new genre” with this album. I was particularly intrigued by this quote:
I think that every hip-hop record should try to do that because hip-hop is trying to take music from other areas and make something new. I don’t know if I’ve achieved it, but I’m trying to.
It was reminiscent of comments I heard from El-P last year as well where he complained about how journalists always try to differentiate people doing anything innovative as something other than hip-hop. Back in the day I recall hearing stories about how Shadow would get angry with record store owners for classifying his albums in the wrong section. The truth of the matter is there’s very little under the sun that hasn’t been done anymore, but with this album I have to say that Cut Chemist has definitely stepped out of the background for me and presented a signature style that is all his own.
Cut Chemist – Metrorail Through Space
The album may not fall into the neat little box that most people recognize as “hip-hop” but all of the key elements are here. I think this is one of those album that will broaden peoples horizons.
I also heard that there were a few issues with sample clearance that caused the album to take a lot longer than expected to produce. This only makes me wonder what other greatness could have been because it’s very apparent that this man has a way with creatively flipping a sample. Listen to what he’s done with a vocal track from Astrud Gilberto’s “Berimbau”
Astrud Gilberto – Berimbau Cut Chemist – The Garden
It’s easy to tell Cut Chemist is a true music lover. A collector and an aficionado, you can catch him in action on tour currently with Shakira (whaa???), and if you live in Hollywood, when he’s not out on tour you can usually find him every Saturday night at Star Shoes for Funky Sole (You’ll also run into Music Man Miles and Egon from Stones Throw Records). There’s a good chance you’ll catch me there as well. More than likely I’ll either be on the dance floor or hanging with Natasha the bartender by the bar in the back.
If you want to know the caliber of audiophile we’re talking about here, take a look at this clip:
To wrap things up I’ll leave you with the video for “What’s the Altitude” featuring Hymnal and as a bonus track I’ll give you the finale to Product Placement.
Cut Chemist and DJ Shadow – Product Placement Part L
(can anyone tell me the name of the cut that starts out this snippet?)