Saturday, March 7, 2009

N.A.S.A. - The Spirit of the Apollo

Studio LP

I admit, it may not be the best approach to begin a hip-hop blog with a review on this disc. The music that Squeak E. Clean and DJ Zegon put into the mix with this album does its best to defy any critical analysis of its value. And that is not to say that it is genre-bending or ground-breaking. It is simply that this album amounts to about as much as a party mix.

That being said, it would make a damn great party mix.

The album's roster is probably its biggest talking point. Squeak E. Clean got about half the Wu-Tang stable on board, featured Jurassic 5's Chali 2na on a couple tracks, and wrangled hip-hop vets Chuck D and KRS-One, among others. Add in a large handful of artists from outside the States, such as Seu Jorge, as well as lesser-known-to-Americans artists. And also there's Tom Waits.

The overall mood is the easy-going, fun-loving spirit of a block party, so naturally the emcee that seems most at home over the bouncy beats is Chali 2na. I am not saying that they phone it in, but the more serious emcees tone it down on this album. Put Chuck D on a track called Money and you would likely expect something furious, but the most biting line you could find in his verse is:

"Who'd go from rags to riches, and spend their riches on rags?/Similar bags with designer name tags"

The contribution is a decent effort from Public Enemy's frontman, but its tameness highlights the fact that to enjoy this album, you have to recognize it is only entertainment. Maybe it is the fact that the album allows listeners not to take it so seriously that I find it easier to enjoy Kanye's collaboration with Santogold and Swedish pop singer Lykke Li.

"Matter of fact I'm on this very second/I'm in first and y'all in second/And this verse only add to the freshness/Call up the club and add to the guest-list/Whachu think? Way more bitches/I could never be too big for my britches/Y'all muthafuckas know who this is/I'm gifted. Merry Christmas."

Nope. I could dance the shit outta that track, but despite the lowered expectations on this album for Kanye, he still spits obnoxious garbage. But that beef is for another section.

As far as the choice of combinations of artists, some people will probably have a problem with the pairing of Kool Keith and Tom Waits, Waits contributing a gravely chorus and sung verse bookended by Keith on Spacious Thoughts. Still, it is difficult to pick this song apart. In a strangely entertaining way, it doesn't not work.

The album, as critic after critic has pointed out, was such a massive undertaking that it resulted in somewhat of a mess. Artists like Seu Jorge and the RZA get pushed out of the way at times. It is not an album you should put on the headphones for repeated listenings, but definitely a good fit for a basement party.

Beats: 7.5 Lyrics: 6 Overall Listen: 7

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