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Beans: Only (2006)

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Beans: Only How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.

A recent AAJ article, bitterly titled What the F*** Happened To Black Popular Music," made issue with the state of black music today, specifically calling out rappers and DJs for, in the author's mind, their degenerative attempts at artistry. The response was extraordinary, inspiring over fifty pages of debate on the AAJ Bulletin Board.

My advice to all these talking heads is to shut up and listen to this new record by Beans. Featuring legendary bass and drum duo William Parker and Hamid Drake, Only showcases the former Anti-Pop Consortium emcee's artistry and creativity. Beans blends glitchy electro-clash production and his unique brand of avant-garde raps with Parker and Drake's live rhythms.

Anyone who can listen to this recording and claim the rappers and DJs aren't artists in their own right needs to take their Earth, Wind & Fire records off the turntable and join the 21st Century, you "Uncle Tom Selleck motherf***ers (to quote Beans).

Only is culled from a ten-hour session involving Parker and Drake that Beans sliced, diced, mixed and remixed, cutting the entire thing down to ten tracks. The story goes like this: Beans produced beats, which he handed over to Parker and Drake to reinterpret acoustically. Parker and Drake handed ten hours of interplay back to Beans, who loaded it all onto his laptop, re-processing and fully realizing his original vision over the course of forty minutes of music. Tight beats, lush, ambient textures, witty spoken word raps... Only is unlike anything you've ever heard, guaranteed.

The band comes out swinging on "5, one of the only tracks on Only where you will actually here Parker and Drake engaged in a swing feel. Beans writes in the liner notes that it wasn't until completion of the following track that he "started to get a direction for this record.

"7 is trippy, with textural drumming from Drake, Beans' echofied whispers of "only-ly-ly-ly, and glitchy electro-soundscapes. Midway through, Beans launches into one of his best raps on the record, calling out all "these bootleg Jay-Z's and pondering the absurdity of two bald men fighting over a comb. This is Beans at his best. He drops a more extensive verse on the next tune, "4.

There are no "solos here in any traditional jazz sense, save Beans' lyrical soloing, if you will. Ask any 50 Cent fan and they'll till you this record ain't hip-hop. Jazz? Hip-Hop? Prog? Whatever...

Only excels in showing three disgustingly talented musicians at the top of their game. Parker and Drake have never sounded so tight, and Beans' otherworldly influence on these tunes takes them to the next level. Whether with microphone in hand, rhyming about being "the link between Suicide, Sun Ra and Bambaata, or adding cosmic layers to Parker and Drake's bass and drums, Beans has changed his identity from avant emcee to artist-to-look-out-for. Watch out!

Track Listing: 5, 1, 7, 4, 3, 71, 118, 20, 56, 198.

Personnel: Beans: producer, emcee; Hamid Drake: drums; William Parker: bass.

Record Label: Thirsty Ear Recordings

Style: Fringes of Jazz


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