Whether you like it or not, hip-hop is a manufactured, packaged, marketed product. The days of hissy pause tapes have been replaced with mp3's and burned CD's. Hip-hop has gone from counter culture to trend-setting pop culture. Debate all you want about the positives and negatives of the industry chocking out the culture, but one thing that cannot be disputed is that hip-hop has completely lost its innocence. When hip-hop began there was no defined standard on how it was supposed to sound, cats just made the music that was in their hearts. Finding that in 2005 is like the ol' needle in the haystack, "Beauty & The Beat" is that needle.
Edan is an emcee/producer/DJ (all in the truest sense), representing the Boston scene after relocating from DC. He is best known for making music that sounds like it should have released 20 years ago, such as his debut "Primitive Plus." "Beauty & The Beat" doesn't sound so much like it should have been released 20 years ago, it sounds like it was actually made 20 years ago. There is an essence about this album, a purity, an innocence; one that I didn't think could be captured in today's poisoned landscape.
While all three trades are obvious throughout the LP, perhaps the most notable is his DJ skills shining. It isn't cause of razor sharp cuts and scratches; it's that the album is mixed so seamlessly that the transitions between songs often go unnoticed. I don't if I've ever heard a regular LP blend together so perfectly. Just check out the incredible Lif-assisted "Making Planets" lead into "Time Out" and then to "Rock and Roll." Beyond that, there is no shortage of awe-inspiring songs. "Beauty" is just that and "Funky Voltron" and "Murder Mystery" are as rich as they come. Edan and fellow jack of all trades Insight display their deft retro stylings on the back and forth "Science of the Two" and the rhyme inspector Percee P joins in on setting the mic afire on "Torture Chamber."
The icing on the cake comes with two tracks; "Fumbling Over Words That Rhyme" and "Promised Land." The former has Edan paying incredible homage to the originators over some CLASSIC drums. Edan actually sum it all up perfectly with "cool rap music ain't made under pressure/expose a jewel, teach school at my leisure/fumble over words that rhyme with a verse divine/back track and think of the greatest of all times/class is in session, master conception/teacher was a student, study like a Buddhist/reviewing all the best to do it so lets do this" "Promised Land" is just as definitive of the album as it is sheer innocent imagination at work. While some may dub it corny, I can't help but smile at lines like "with a suit made of electricity/I ran through the Great Wall of China convincingly/that was after the world tour/that was after the world tour/when I traveled through gravel to battle matter at the Earth's core" and "my powers settled the clash between races/and put good people on the magazine faces/substituted television scandals with elephants and pandas."
This album is everything that music should be, and isn't. Pure, honest, music from the heart. Its art, not product. Some may say Edan is just making music that has already been done, but despite his old school influences this is as original as it comes. Every time I get discouraged by another pointless beef and another wack rapper going platinum, I can put on this album and remember why I fell in love with her in the first place.