October 23, 2014

Torii MacAdams recently purchased a bunch of rap cassettes in southeast Dallas.

“Hauntingly beautiful” is a koan for lazy journalists and bloggers, used to describe music that’s ethereal, breathy, and melodious. It’s also a phrase never used in conjunction with chopped and screwed mixes, which can fulfill all the qualities of “hauntingly beautiful,” with an added dose of menace. DJ Screw’s late-night lean alchemy often transformed gangster rap to soul, the slowed down vocals deepening into, or beyond, Barry White territory. Delroy Edwards, ascendant dance music star and rap aficionado, has released a series of tapes, Slowed Down Funk, roughly as varied as the Screw canon. The series of free downloads (and cassette tapes for the less thrifty) runs the gamut from Kleer loops, to slowed down Memphis rapper 2 Low Key, to an interlude’s surprise inclusion of “Message in a Bottle.”

Despite the rap-ward emphasis of Slowed Down Funk, Edwards is best known for his dance releases through New York record label L.I.E.S., his “4 Club Use Only” 12” a particular star in the producer’s canon. His latest, Slowed Down Funk III: Pure Evil, is the first to explicitly credit him with individual songs, departures in varying degrees from his tracks for L.I.E.S. and self-owned L.A. Club Resource. Edwards has released industrial, shoegaze-y music and pounding techno, but he’s at his best when grooving. His compositions on Pure Evil are like 80’s R&B jams played through a dirt-filled boombox, full of heady, floating keyboard refrains and cassette reverb. I’d venture a guess that many, if not all, of the self-produced beats on Pure Evil were made with analog equipment, a smart choice when trying to capture the low-fi quality of Edwards’ Memphis and Houston inspiration. “Bump This” is a particular standout, the chunky bass and warped cowbells straight from an Orange Mound bedroom. Edwards may already be Mr. Big for avant-garde dance music fans, but unindoctrinated rap geeks will find lots to like with Slowed Down Funk.

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