Galactic - Ya-Ka-May

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Much like the New Orleans dish after which it

There’s something to be said for artists that are seem just as at-home inside their “comfort zone” as they are outside of it. That may sound paradoxical, but New Orleans Funk/Jazz outfit Galactic seem to fit the bill in that respect. Also dabbling in Hip Hop, Soul and Blues, the band’s musical product is an assortment of many flavors and persuasions.  It’s therefore fitting that their latest album is titled Ya-Ka-May, a play on a New Orleans dish, “Ya Ka Mein,” – a soup which combines New Orleans soul food with other cultural influences.

Following a telling intro that samples a New Orleans television show, Ya-Ka-May kicks off with “Boe Money,” featuring The Rebirth Brass Band. The track is New Orleans Funk with a touch of Latin flavor, provided by blaring horns and fast-paced percussion, complete with chants to get things started. The fast pace continues with “Double It,” which features Bounce (a NOLA style of Hip Hop) artist Big Freedia. The track is an energetic mix of thumping bass, and repetitive mantras that are sure to get any party started.

The real gem here is “Heart of Steel,” which is graced by Louisiana soul legend Irma Thomas. Aided by little more than a harmonica and what sounds like a bongo, Thomas croons beautifully: “I should’ve known better than to run through a ring of fire / I should’ve known better than to shoot with a blood for hire / I should’ve known better than to repeat everything I’ve seen / I should’ve known better, but now it don’t mean a thing / Deep down inside, I’ve got a heart of steel / I’ll take the pain, turn it into something real.” Thomas’ Bluesy tone and subject matter is complimented by well-placed guitar and the aforementioned instrumentation to give it an enjoyable, if not upbeat tempo.

“Bacchus” (possibly referring to the Greek god Dionysis) has prominent New Orleans R&B musician Allen Toussaint’s vocals and blues piano delivering a not-quite smoothed out jam session (drummer Stanton Moore’s percussive progressions give the track too much energy to call it that – which isn’t a bad thing). “Katey vs. Nobby” sounds like it could be found on a Dizzee Rascal album, and has only one goal – to make asses move. Aided by Bounce artists Katey Red and Sissy Nobby, the drums on the cut are just as frenetic as the duo’s raps. With its repetitive rhymes, it joins “Double It” as one made for the clubs.

Rich bass and cello back Jazz vocalist Boutte on “Dark Water.” The track’s snares frame Boutte’s delivery in such a way that it’s almost sung and rapped at the same time, giving it a pleasantly heavy groove. The dial goes back to 10 when Cheeky Blakk rounds out the album’s last Bounce track with “Do It Again,” unless you count “Do It Again (again).”

Much like the New Orleans dish after which it’s named, Ya-Ka-May has something for everyone. A complex but satisfying marriage of Funk, Jazz, Blues, Hip Hop and Soul, this musical morsel is right for anyone seeking a new, distinct musical flavor. Additionally, it’s a window into the New Orleans music scene which provides the listener a sample of everything – reliably back by Galactic’s always strong instrumentations and musical sensibilities.


  • Lou

    Well, I love almost everything that comes out of Nola, and everyone on this album--all of whom are outstanding at serving up his or her particular specialty--put in fantastic cuts for the final product. So this was an easy 5 for me. This album is all about heart (at least to me), with each player delivering a message (even without words) that is soulful, genuine, and not overly varnished or prettied up. The players wail, the vocalists have great pipes, and the MCs are concise and punchy with just the right amount of Nola raggedy around the edges. My favorite album of 2010.

  • Magnum Opus

    Yeah, impressed that DX would even give Galactic a listen. Hope this album does well, and gets Rebirth used more; they are the shit. I'll give this a 4/5, but Galactic is also one of those bands whose CD's can't compare to their live shows. Geaux Saints!

  • LAfine

    • db

      I wouldn't call this "backpack shit" at all. Some of the hip hop elements on this album aren't exactly my flavor, but overall this is an excellent album that represents the melting pot of cultures and sounds that is New Orleans.

  • Lee Majors

    From new orleans enjoyed last album

  • YES.

    DX, you've been impressing me lately. first Gil-Scott Heron, now Galactic. i didn't think anyone at DX would know who Galactic is. tho not strictly hiphop, they've been incorporating New Orleans rappers (Juvenile in their last album?!) in their albums and shows for a while. keep up the open mindedness

    • ParisCity

      That's sounds good according to the reviews, I gonna check dis one out! Talking about Boots, what's up with The Coup? Is there any album from them dropping soon, cuz "Take a bigger weapon" was fucking great!! "I'm hear to laugh, love, fuck and drink liquor and help the damn revolution come quicker..." ---The Coup---

    • Boom Bye Yeah

      Agreed. I liked their stuff with Boots. Boots got arrested at a Galactic show

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