Love is an underlying theme, and this is expressed in overt terms (“The Bone Song”) and “Gemini’s Rising” which promises “Icky, licky, sticky fun.” While the production remains as funky and sensual as anything you’ve ever heard from Sa-Ra [click to read], they purposely keep things subtle on some tracks, while also experimenting with Salsa, Afro-Beat, instrumental Jazz. Additionally Nuclear Evolution may have some of the best instrumentation on any album you hear in 2009–Rap or otherwise. 

A true appreciation of Nuclear Evolution requires an eclectic palette and a willingness to spin the album a few times. Initially, the inclusion of Auto-tune, verses sung completely in Spanish and a bit of George Clinton inspired falsetto produces head-scratching reactions similar to those experienced after first hearing Andre 3000‘s [click to read]The Love Below [click to read] or Common‘s [click to read] Electric Circus [click to read]. But for those bored with a year that has only produced a handful of superior albums thus far, the return of Sa-Ra is a welcome change. 

With all due respect to DJ Paul and Juicy J [click to read], Sa-Ra Creative Partners may be Hip Hop’s “Most Known Unknowns.” Despite lending their talents to the likes of Killer Mike [click to read], Dilla, Erykah Badu and Dr. Dre, their brand was reintroduced into Hip Hop’s collective consciousness when their most visible member, Taz Arnold, appeared in a photo with Kanye West and others wearing a pair of gold, Lamé tights. Much like their fashion leanings, the gentlemen of Sa-Ra have a flair for the vintage and eclectic which is virtually unmatched. Their most recent offering, Nuclear Evolution: The Age of Love, lives up to its name by showcasing two discs worth of futuristic music. 

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True to its title, the album displays an evolution from 2007’s The Hollywood Recordings. In fact, you can’t technically classify this as a Hip Hop album, since only one song (“Traffika”) contains actual, rapped bars. Taz, Shafiq and Om’Mas orchestrate the proceedings, providing a seamless blend of live instruments, samples and sequenced drums that is unmatched. The trio is equally comfortable playing the background and letting lesser-known but equally capable vocalists such as Rozzi Daime, Debi Nova and Noni Limar handle the vocal work while they man the boards. 

The result is an album that reaches into black music’s past to push Hip Hop and R&B’s borders into left field. Influences from Jimi Hendrix, Prince and Parliament Funkadelic are evident throughout. Occasionally, Sa-Ra‘s experiments take them into the world of Electronica and Drum & Bass. If neither is your genre of preference, then those few omissions are the only thing preventing this from being a classic LP.