ake no mistake about it: Miami-based producer Edgar Farinas (aka Push Button Objects) wants to be known as a hip-hopper. Over the last few years, Farinas has deftly mixed thumping hip-hop beats with electronic noises and gurgles to create a unique sound somewhat akin to Funkstorung, but with a bit more street cred. But for all his past flirtations with electronica—including excursions on such esteemed labels as Skam and Schematic—Farinas made his point before I even put this CD in the player. The press release makes it abundantly clear which side of the hip-hop/electronica fusion fence he is on: “It’s... the return... of tha Gangsta. The mighty O.G. Edgar Farinas rocks the box once again with his long-awaited second Long Playa.” Then, at the bottom in big black letters, “FILE UNDER: HIP HOP.” OK, that’s clear enough—it’s a hip-hop album then.
But then I played the album, and suddenly things weren’t so black and white. Leadoff track “Hustlin” is all booming beats, quirky sound snippets, keyboard flourishes and textured noises. If I didn’t know better, I might have mistaken it for a lost Autechre track from 1995 or so. But then, the second track “360 Degrees” dropped, and I was all confused again. Rappers! Samples! Beats! This is a hip-hop album after all! What the...?
And therein lies the problem with Ghetto Blaster: it’s just a bit too schizophrenic for its own good. Certainly most of the music here is of high quality. The instrumentals are stellar fusions of raw rhythms, freaky samples and electronic textures, and the rap tunes—featuring pedigreed guest MCs Mr. Lif, Akrobatik, Aesop Rock, Vast Aire, Del Tha’ Funkee Homosapien, and Doseone, plus the ubiquitous DJ Craze on the decks—are strong examples of underground hip hop at its finest. But just when one style starts to hit its stride, the other breaks in to ruin the flow. Then, if you happen to hit one of the few dud tracks here (like the rather lame “3 Doctors”), the proceeds grind to a halt—only to be picked up by something like the stunning electro-fied instrumental “Breaker’s Delight,” which really does sound like the “Cybotron dueling Bambaataa in Queensbridge” soundclash that the press release promised.
One can’t help but feel that if Farinas had just followed one style or the other throughout, he would have had a classic on his hands. As it is, the conflicting genres just seem to get in each other’s way. I suppose this could all be remedied by programming your CD player or picking up your stylus, but it is somewhat frustrating, and even a bit exhausting to sit through in its entirety. Mostly, I found myself wishing that Farinas would just make separate rap and instrumental albums next time out. He clearly has the talent to perform both styles, but having it all dumped on your stereo at once is not necessarily the best way to experience his skills. Think back to your grade school art class days: it might have seemed like a great idea to mix all the paint colors together, but all you end up with in the end is a murky brown.