January 21, 2013

Max Bell is firmly pro-DuRag, always and forever.

If it’s going to come out, it may as well come out now — I owned a durag. Fuck it, I owned a few. One may or may not have been littered with Allen Iverson logos (I definitely had those finger sleeves). Thankfully, I had the good sense to never wear them outside and I’ve since thrown them out and now wear t-shirts and jeans that fit me properly.

Phases and changes, I guess that’s what I’m getting at. And if there’s one man who’s reinvented himself in a major way over the last two years, moving from dark and grimy east-coast influenced beats to psychedelic and prog-rock suites, it’s Alchemist (if you’re from Beverly Hills, you might remember him once trading verses with Scott Caan as Mudfoot).

2012 was his year. It has to be — Vodka & Ayahuasca and The Odditorium EP with Oh No as part of their duo Gangrene, his solo patchwork of tripped out Russian samples, Russian Roulette, and the projects with Domo (No Idols) and Action (Rare Chandeliers). Granted, not every track and/or project hit as hard as the best of the batch and not every verse was revelatory, but I’ll be damned if the beat to every single track didn’t sound better and, at the very least, different from every other beat around.

Now, in 2013, Al’s the man behind the boards for Durag Dynasty’s (Planet Asia, Tristate, and Killer Ben) record 360 Waves, which is slated to drop in March on Nature Sounds. Given his output from last year, you should know that, if nothing else, the man is in the prime of his career, 2013 looks very promising, and that the Durag Dynasty album is going to sound very good.

Thus far, there have been two singles, “The World’s Most Dangerous” and now, “Durag Dynasty Theme” (both singles below the jump). The beats for each stand as a testament to Al’s versatility, to his ever-expanding ability to flip samples so hard they’ll never need clearance, as they are two wholly different sonic offerings. The first is much more in line with the NY-style productions of Al’s generally reserved for his work with Prodigy (I hope P brings it on Albert Einstein), contemporary boom-bap with the only the hardest of drums and an angelic vocal sample chopped and looped to compliment the gruff and grizzly bars of each MC. The latter, “Durag Dynasty Theme,” is akin to many of the tracks you might find on any of the Gangrene offerings, with chopped and whining and warbling guitar riffs punctuating a hauntingly grinding organ. If he keeps it up I don’t think the moniker “Phantom of the Rap Opera” (residuals) will be wholly unwarranted.

As far as the rhymes go, they are all prison-shank sharp, “guerilla strength” bars about “diamonds and clips” — apparently “that Durag Dynasty shit.” Personally, these are some of the best battle raps around right now. I don’t know if I’ve heard  a better line than ” Rog Troutman, Zapp you with the talkbox” (pretty sure it belongs to Tristate) in 2013. Or maybe it’s just my preference for anything and everything Zapp/Roger Troutman.  In any case, whether you’ve heard of Tristate and Killer Ben or not (I really haven’t), both tracks are worth seven minutes out of your day. They work particularly well when played over clips from the Lakers “Showtime” era (below the jump). Above all else, it might help you forget the Lakers are under .500 this season. Maybe.

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