July 14, 2016


Max Bell is disturbing the cornerstone of your shrine. 

Myka 9 wasn’t first, but he fathered a million styles. In the ‘90s, it was rumored that the rhythms of his spontaneous Good Life sermons were lifted wholesale, used to spawn entire discographies. Today, you can hear his influence, and that of his Freestyle Fellowship cohorts, in the jazz leanings of Kendrick Lamar. It goes without saying that outside of L.A., Myka doesn’t get enough credit. Fortunately, the local cognoscenti continue to offer new beats to one of the last of the city’s old guard.

Gnome Beats (Timo Ceniceros) is the latest producer to score Myka’s winding verbal sorties. Their collaborative single, “Linestepper,” will appear on Gnome Beats’ forthcoming, Dome of Doom debut Gnome Lyfe (July 29th).

The beginning of the track nods, of course, to jazz; Gnome layers Myka’s scatting over crisp percussion. The rest of the beat from the former United By Sound member plays with the space between incongruous sounds. Spaceship blips and bleeps hit between cavernous bass. A tambourine jangles intermittently, and the organic is sandwiched between the electronic. It’s the kind of suite crafted by a Low End Theory devotee, someone who understands that making the disparate harmonious is usually the best way forward.

Still, no matter where the beat goes, Myka is never lost. Really, it feels as though he’s the one who inspires every shift. He unpacks the title one Gordian knot of language at a time. His various cadences, though practiced for decades, retain their impulsive verve. The falsetto incantations between verses offer a respite, soothing and leaving time to ask questions. Who else has blurred the line between rap and jazz so effortlessly? Any rapper you might name probably came after Myka 9.

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