Gold Teeth Thief/Minesweeper Suite
nother pair of releases in a line of excellent ones for mix CD and Internet music culture, Tigerbeat’s DJ/rupture moves effortlessly from hip-hop to Bhangara to African and Arabic folk music to drum and bass to dancehall. Things move quickly on these records so if an idea doesn’t connect, don’t fret, it is soon discarded.
As his name suggests, /rupture doesn’t so much blend tracks as burst and deconstruct them, combining the history of black music—often characterized, in America, Europe, and Jamaica, by displacement and struggle—with the pride, rhythm, and earthy conviction of African folk music. Northern African and Arabic sounds blend as easily here as ragga-vocaled dancehall, Timbaland-produced hits, and ruff neck drum-and-bass.
Some of the styles aren’t as disparate as one would think. Ragga and drum-and-bass artists have wisely been cocking their ears to commercial hip-hop for some time and DJ/rupture is more than happy to connect those dots and sounds. Dancehall is particularly explicit in its hip-hop influence, taking wholesale beats and rhymes and starting a dialogue with U.S. artists that, slowly—and with the unlikely help of Janet Jackson and No Doubt—is beginning to be reciprocated. The use of Arabic music—the loping rhythms and stirring melodies of which has informed much of /rupture’s own music—is the particular treat.
He also breaks down walls between commercial hip-hop and its jealous undie world, giving Def Jux stars Cannibal Ox, Ninja Tune’s Venetian Snares, and Non Phixion time on the decks alongside Missy, Nas, and the Wu-Tang Clan. With overt political statements from Dead Prez resting next to a musical tour through the folk music of political hotspots, DJ/rupture contradicts the notion that the importance and validity of hip-hop and other musical forms must be found in its lyrical message. DJ/rupture’s mostly unspoken connections aren’t explicit statements such as Herbert’s Dogma 95esque process or the Northern California folktronica of DJ Shadow’s “Six Days.” Instead, he creates a dialogue with the tension—and lack of tension—and juxtaposition of his music.
These are delightful surprises from Tigerbeat6, a label on which many artists continue to explore street hip-hop with their noses in the air and mix CDs as little more than pranks. Unlike his pal Kid606—who can’t risk showing his true face, let alone a straight one—/rupture has uncommon reverence for his music even as he freely takes chances with the music and the message even as he tweaks, blasts, and cuts it up.
DJ/rupture’s first effort, Gold Teeth Thief, began as a popular Internet download and even made some year-end lists before eventually being given a limited official release. Springing from the ubiquitous tabla of Missy Elliot’s East-meets-West “Get Ur Freak On,” Gold Teeth Thief is a groove-heavy, rhythmic tour through the relationship between American hip-hop and R&B and Eastern and Jamaican culture. Here Timbaland can craft world-dominating melodies from Bhangara beats and Kingston-based dancehall pioneer Barrington Levy can boast that he’s “broader than Broadway.” A little too fractured in places, its bursts of noise and often furious vocal cacophony help the Eastern-based music seem less distant and foreign, nonetheless.
Fittingly it poignantly closes with perhaps the most well known (in the West, at least) meeting of developing world folk and American or Anglo pop, Paul Simon and Ladysmith Black Mambazo’s culture-blending “Homeless.” Simon’s track is mixed with an a capella of “Djiguinira,” by Miriam Makeba, who lived in exile for decades during South African apartheid. A self-described “citizen of the world,” this activist globetrotter gives the record a graceful and fitting final note.
DJ/rupture picks up where he left off on Minesweeper Suite. His first truly official release leads with an Egyptian chant led by Egyptian percussionist Mahmoud Fadi's “Jibal Al Nuba.” Mixing on three decks, /rupture is more concrete and frenetic here than on his previous effort, slyly alluded to late in the second half of the mix with a flippant, self-referential appearance of Roberta Flack’s “Killing Me Softly.” (Which is heart-tuggingly blended with the slowed bass and percussion of Aaliyah’s “Are You That Somebody?”)
On Minesweeper, he also includes some of his own frequently brilliant work as well as that of label mates Kid606, Dat Politics, and Cex. For the most part, however, Minesweeper Suite blends traditional, indigenous, or roots-oriented music with up-to-the-minute beats and the chaos of modern break beat music to create a delightful stew of the past and the present. It makes for a mix of unexpected sounds that together create a unique, fitting portrait of the universality and scope of African-influenced polyrhythms and sounds and, consequently, is an endlessly rewarding listen.
Reviewed by: Scott Plagenhoef
Reviewed on: 2003-09-01