Exile can do things with his MPC that may someday have him mentioned in the same breath as Premier and the late J Dilla. And while some would consider this Hip Hop blasphemy, a quick look at him recreating Lil Wayne‘s “A Milli” [click to watch] or his epic battle with Oh No at DJ Dusk‘s Root Down Soundclash confirms the Los Angeles based beatsmith has the chops to back up such a claim.
With those accolades under his belt, one can only assume that Radio was born from a need to further challenge himself behind the boards. As with all concept or instrumental albums (in this case, Radio falls under both categories), Ex is reaching for somewhat of a niche market. If you’re the type to study a beat, and then go see if you can either reverse engineer it or reproduce it, you should buy this album. If Exile‘s name caught your ear off the strength of his Dirty Science LP, or his projects with Blu [click to read] or with Aloe Blacc as Emanon, this album might not be what you expected.
From a purely technical perspective, Exile is clearly operating at his peak. You don’t necessarily have to know the intricacies of the Akai sequencer/sampler to know he’s pulling of some pretty spectacular stuff. The concept of creating an album incorporating any sound you may hear on a radio–from the actual music to the static, pointless chatter and even dead air–is brilliant. However, the term “Radio” may be a bit of a misnomer, seeing as how nothing on this album resembles anything on the radio in its current format. Despite the many jaw-dropping moments Exile‘s MPC pyrotechnics produce, they don’t always make for easy listening.
Essentially, the listener is left with a collection of quality beats, woven together by interludes and the occasional message via spliced PSA’s, drops, etc. Sound bytes such as the PATRIOT Act-influnced incident which concludes “Watch Out! False Prophet” are extremely timely and relevant. Others just become annoying, much like the infamous Tour Guide from A Tribe Called Quest‘s Midnight Marauders album.
Exile experiments with traditional boom bap-era sounds as well as Electronica (“The Machine”). So, through the course of the album, you’ll easily find at least a half dozen beats you absolutely love. Observant listeners can also pick through an assortment of common samples, such as Heatwave‘s “Always and Forever,” which are incorporated in innovative ways too. But, ultimately, the lack of vocals and the inherently choppy nature of using beat machines and radio sounds limit this album’s replay value.
If you’re a beat junkie, or just in the market for an LP full of choice instrumentals, Radio might be up your alley. Despite what a casual look at its title indicates, the album does in fact pay tribute to days when the term “Radio” was not synonymous with churning out assembly line material for the local Clear Channel affiliate. And while anyone whose formal introduction to Hip Hop came via the Wake Up Show, Stretch Armstrong & Bobbito Garcia or Mr. Magic‘s Rap Attack will appreciate the concept, this project was clearly more in line with Exile‘s personal interpretation of how radio influenced his musical background. As such, there will inevitably be a good portion of fans that opt to tune out until the Ex drops another project.