hen Madvillain's "Monkey Suite" leaked a few months ago, it was said to be included on Chrome Children, which I hastily assumed was the title of the next MF Doom and Madlib collaboration. Well, someone needs a lesson in reading the fine print. Chrome Children is, instead, a joint release by Stones Throw Records and Adult Swim, with assorted contributions from artists on the label, which was a real kick in the teeth.
The only album that Adult Swim has been attached to until now is DangerDoom's The Mouse and the Mask, which was inspired, but suffered slightly from its affiliation with Cartoon Network's late night division. The inclusion of the characters from Aqua Teen Hunger Force into the album's framework cast Doom in a different light. Where he was almost gleefully bizarre on his DangerDoom project, thrown against DM's Looney Tunes beats and conversing with a wad of meat and a giant milkshake, he was still weird, but leaned towards thirteen-year-old kicks.
Adult Swim doesn't interfere with Chrome Children. They sit back and let Peanut Butter Wolf, the DJ/producer behind Stones Throw, release an album that celebrates the label's ten year anniversary in style and gives them enough music to play during their inside-joke interludes for the next year. Chrome Children opts not to mimic Adult Swim's juvenility, but rather its sense of style, focusing on the essentials: beats, rhymes, and melody.
The feat that Chrome Children pulls off is consistency. There are very few throwaway tracks, and those are no worse than minor filler. Of the nineteen contributions, roughly half are produced by either J Dilla or Madlib, and every beat they drop is slamming. Dust-caked drums, harsh handclaps, distorted samples, and synth buzzes abound, and, for maybe the first time, there isn’t an MC that chokes. Oh No's opener "Oh Zone" starts things off slowly, but it leads into Guilty Simpson's "Clap Your Hands," which is not only the first time that I've heard this Dilla MC not ruin his mentor's beat, but also the first time that he sounds hungry, throwing out sharp lines, showcasing a menace only hinted at previously. From that point, it's hot track after hot track, with Madlib slaying it on "Take It Back," him and Doom exhaling an after-party nodder with the aforementioned "Monkey Suite," and letting his alter ego Quasimoto out of the asylum for a sparring match with Percee P on "Raw Heat."
The biggest surprise comes in the non-hip-hop tracks, nearly overshadowing some of the best work recently released by Dilla and Madlib. Koushik's "None in Mind" is premier psych-hop, with slurring, sensual vocals slithering over enormous drums, littering percussion, and warped wah guitar, disguising itself as a lost cut off of Soul-Jazz's Tropicália retrospective. Gary Wilson's "Dream(S)" could have been in the background of a '70s porn flick, and Pure Essence's "Third Rock," employing a beat already used by RJD2 on "Clean Living," performs the track better than what was already a highlight on Since We Last Spoke. Not only is his voice a dead ringer for Sly Stewart, but the words and the tone he takes sound like vintage There's a Riot Goin' On, singing, "The creator is getting impatient with you," and then passionately reciting the chorus "People of the third rock from the sun / You can't be you." It perfectly encapsulates the weariness and disenchantment of Sly & the Family Stone circa 1971, but applies it to the present, epitomizing what makes Chrome Children more than just a run-of-the-mill rap comp. It displays craftsmanship, creativity, and virtuosity, sewing a tapestry of thick production and spirited performances that makes me pretty damn happy I glossed over the details.