The constantly progressive Stones Throw roster shows its many faces on an album partnered with Cartoon Network. While Cartoon Networks’ late night line-up, aptly named Adult Swim, has already been a part of the success of DangerDOOM’s The Mouse and the Mask, their commercial breaks have been sprinkled with lush backgrounds provided by beat-makers like Madlib and J. Dilla. In a year that saw the passing of the latter, the label said goodbye to the legend and celebrated ten years strong with Chrome Children.
Oh No accepts the challenge on the opener, “Oh Zone” and chronicles the history of the incredibly diverse Southern California label. A great producer in his own right with his brother and label-mate Madlib, they obviously have music running in their blood. Next up, Guilty Simpson boasts gorilla-sized verses over that familiar J. Dilla thump on “Clap Your Hands” and parlays line after line of skillful wordplay. Followed by a Jaylib collaboration on ‘Take it Back,” which offers equal parts of both (Dilla and Madlib), while Madlib impresses without the aid of another one of his incarnations, Lord Quas. Koushik’s “None in Mind” is complete with many things, even bells and whistles, but the whispery vocals border on ghostly and truthfully are impossible to follow, which may be his intention after all. This all leads to a previously unheard Dilla solo joint, “Nothing Like This,” whose only fault may be its length, or lack thereof.
The return of Madvillain suffers from the same fault, but Madlib’s funky keys and DOOM’s deft on the mic more than make up for it. Complete with his own sound effects, the masked one returns with a vengeance on “Monkey Suite,” which will hopefully bring us closer to Madvillain 2. I should also mention the album comes with a DVD of Stones Throw and Madvillain concert footage from SXSW earlier this year.
MED pairs with Madlib on “All I Know” and lists his vices, including the streets, hoes, heat, dough, weed and the beefs, not to forget his folks, the rhymes and the beat. On “Raw Heat,” the underground legend Percee P and Quasimoto extend the verbal workout another three minutes so Percee can stretch out his vocabulary fully. Jaylib’s “No $ No Toke” serves as the smoke break and Beat Junkie J. Rocc’s “Drama” is the wake-up call in response. Finally Roc C’s “Movin” is the type of driving track that is perfectly paired with his talent and “Oh No” on production.
The rest of the album features the porno-esque “Dream(s)” from Gary Wilson and delightfully soulful offerings from Dudley Perkins (“Whussup World”), Aloe Blacc (“What Now”) and Georgia Anne Muldrow (“Simply a Joy”). Executive producer Peanut Butter Wolf produces the Baron Zen track, “Turned Around,” which shows up a little late and frankly out of place, though in the land of Stones Throw that may not be possible. Even the funk infused track from Pure Essence (Rjd2 anyone?) on the album strangely sounds current with the rest of the compilation. While the Stones Throw label stays current and ahead of the curve, their Chrome Children are digging in the past and we’re all the better for it.