March 20, 2013

Doc Zeus hath risen.

For a man who has the stoned Scumbag Steve countenance of a young Jason Mewes, Harry Fraud of the titular “La Musica De Harry Fraud,” has managed to become one of the most accomplished young producers in hip hop. In-demand and prolific, Fraud has become the breakout producer in a resurgent New York mixtape scene. His production work has supplied excellent richly layered productions for subterranean virtuosos like Action Bronson (“Bird On A Wire”) and Curren$y (“Cigarette Boats”), plus popular mainstream dickheads like Rick Ross (“The Zenith”) and Wiz Khalifa (“Telescope”) He’s even provided non-Max B legitimacy to the success of French Montana’s music career, which outside of his work with Fraud (“Shot Caller”, “Go Hard”) has mostly seemed like a Trading’s Place style gentleman’s bet between Diddy and Rick Ross. The winner gets possession of Stalley.

While his production has firm roots in the traditional breakbeat and crate-digging style of New York street rap, Fraud infuses his beats with a dreamy jazzy quality that seems slow cooked in blunt haze and barbecue ribs. They’re ethereal street rap beats that could fit perfectly beneath anything from Rick Ross’ next gauche anthem of gangster excess to the meticulous weirdness of Action Bronson, to the entrance music of a 1980s professional wrestling manager. I was always partial to Jimmy Hart.

But on Adrift, Harry’s debut mixtape, Fraud bridges and displays these two sensibilities to mostly mixed results. Mostly an odd & ends compilation of original songs, remixes and memorable mixtape cut selections, if you enjoy Fraud’s brand of neo-traditionalist jazz beats, Adrift provides plenty argument that he is one of the most promising producers of the moment. Choice cuts from Bronson (“Morey Boogie Boards”), French Montana (“I’m A Coke Boy (Remix)”) and Smoke DZA (“Aura”) are sprinkled liberally throughout the album to reward the listener.

At twenty-three tracks, the tape feels unnecessarily long and often dull, becoming bogged down by the sheer glut of guest appearances and tossed away cuts from some of America’s least interesting mixtape rappers alive. Mac Miller shows up to waste your time on two separate tracks of chin-strapped mediocrity. But at times, it feels as if the album’s best cut, Danny Brown’s blistering “#HottestMCs,” serves as a perfunctory diss track to some of the rest of the clown shoes Brown has to share valuable space with (Miller, Chase Fetti, Chinx Drugz, Chevy Woods.)

Producer driven albums of the non-instrumental variety and/or not produced by Prince Paul or Pete Rock, often live or die by the quality of guest verses the producer can solicit. At times, it can feel as if the tracks on the album were discarded throwaways from a rapper’s debut mixtape that found a second home on the producer’s vanity project. In Adrift’s case, there’s enough genuinely stellar tracks to make it worth a solitary listen, but most of the material seems to destined for the Great Recycling Bin in the Digitized Sky.

ZIP: Harry Fraud – Adrift (Left-Click)

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