Monday, February 24th, 2014

Busy Signal – All In One

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Patrick St. Michel: If you are going to show off your freestyle skills, might as well go big and cram an entire decade into a six-minute mega mix.

Alfred Soto: Toasting Through Nineties Hip-Hop, Vol. 1.

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: Back in the Nineties, the New York nightclub the Tunnel was where street hip-hop was transformed into immortal anthems. Before Funkmaster Flex began his regular Sunday set, Cipha Sounds would test the waters with R&B and reggae. “All in One” sounds like a meeting of those two worlds, a spirited run through the hardest Tunnel-era instrumentals, another classic after another. (A couple of 50 Cent beats jar, having been released after the Tunnel’s closing in 2001, but that “Wanksta” beat still sounds amazing so fuck it.) The freestyle also functions as nostalgia for another time: back when Dr Dre wasn’t renowned for audio accessories, back when Prodigy and Havoc seemed like they were brothers forever, back when DMX wasn’t fighting child murderers for a payday. “All In One” exists to remind us of reggae’s place in hip-hop history. Both genres were in sync in the late Nineties. At least they were, compared to nowadays. Think of how Vybz Kartel was left off Blueprint 3 in lieu of Mr Hudson and that Empire of the Sun guy. Look at how Snoop’s career diminished after an embracing of Jamaican sonics. Assassin got less post-Yeezus shine than Justin Vernon and Evian Christ, even after bodying “I’m In It.” The Tunnel era is long gone, shuttered by its violent hubris and Guiliani’s quality-of-life campaigns. Perhaps so is a time that gully hip-hop sat alongside the hardest riddims, but Busy fights against fate for six whole minutes, shouting “next riddim!” and continuing to pull up.

Josh Langhoff: Barely a single, “All In One” is a concert centerpiece designed to elicit constant cheering from an audience in Pavlovian thrall to each of its riddims. Even its good parts — “‘aters keep ‘ating, my bankbook inflating,” “Peabo to the Bryson,” “bbbbbbbbbp,” the closing “peace” over a gunshot — lose impact in this jumble, because Busy Signal sounds like he’s just reading from his Cool Shit notebook. (Everybody has one of those, right?) Cool Shit should just sound snuck in, preferably into a song that doesn’t go on forever.

Brad Shoup: I guess we’re now on the lookout for Hot 97-style Ugandan freestyles. He’s not busy tying knots like on “Gun Song,” just him changing up his thing over and over, dangling Auto-Tune over “The Next Episode,” uploading his dancehall and hip-hop references, trumpeting his gal-ology degree, begging you to Google him. In other words, he’s a bit more flexible than his DJ, whose biggest idea is laying “Ruff Ryders’ Anthem” over “In Da Club.”

Anthony Easton: This track is really good at information control. The song is so dense, but how it layers, speeds up and slows down, denies a strict forward narrative. That he talks about his flow about half way through the track, suggests a wry self-fashioning, which might even become a self parody. 

Crystal Leww: Busy Signal is trying to cram a zillion ideas into a very short amount of time. Hmmmm, that sounds familiar…

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