Wednesday, May 05, 2010

What's Real

I have officially become that guy. I am now that blogger who talks about shit well before its actual release.

This means I am, at the very least, an abject tease. And I apologize.

Today, for example, I am going to drop a bit of knowledge concerning an album that is – get this – a full month away. A month! That's, like, forever in internet time!

Still, I'm gonna talk it up because it deserves the hype, and maybe not for the reasons you think.

This week Random and K-Murdock released a pair of singles from their long-awaited Forever Famicom album, and, unsurprisingly, they've been incredibly well received. Both "Dream Master" and "Epoch" are indicative of the stuff you'll hear on the full release come June 1st, but if you're just head-bobbin' to beats built on the music of Little Nemo: The Dream Master and Chrono Trigger you might be overlooking the genuine beauty of this project.

Don't get me wrong; Forever Famicom is certainly the brand of chip-hop you're expecting. (Hell, I'd go so far as to call it chip-hop at its finest, but that's neither here nor there.) The difference is that the mechanism isn't the message. Allow me to explain.

Through his wildly popular Mega Ran releases, Ran caught the ear of gamers everywhere, not to mention garnered the favor of Capcom itself. Both Mega Ran and Mega Ran 9 were finely focused concept albums that drew both musical and lyrical inspiration from the Blue Bomber's elaborate mythos. Like the series that inspired it, the Mega Ran project proved itself to be, on every imaginable level, a rousing success. It got Ran a performance spot at Comic-Con, a write-up in Nintendo Power and even helped to push his work into film and videogames. Still, despite their inherent genius these are concept albums, and the concept album, by its very nature, has an intentionally limited scope.

I've remarked in the past that the original Mega Ran album wasn't merely an artistic departure, but a fairly brave gambit by Random to boot. This is a cat who, I might remind you, was already established in the underground thanks to stellar efforts like his 2006 debut The Call. Stepping back from more introspective, personal work into the allegorical skin of a robot hero was a risky move, but it succeeded both because of the strength of the concept and the skill of the MC himself.

In that regard, Forever Famicom is the perfect marriage of the lovably nostalgic Mega Ran and the straight-talking street poet Random. It at last bridges the gap between those sometimes contradictory aspects of his artistic persona.

Still, as much as I'd love to lay the strength of this new album at Ran's feet, it owes just as much to the virtues of K-Murdock. Yes, the musical end of the project is built upon beats inspired by the NES titles you know and love, but somewhere early in the album's intro – a breezy little number that wryly references Random's other 8-bit endeavors – that quickly stops seeming like a crutch.

Yes, Ran and Murdock could've simply tossed another straight-up Mega Ran album at us and we would've gobbled it up. But they didn't. They innovated. They flipped the game. And the results are astounding.

In back-in-the-day cuts like "Forever" and the aforementioned "Dream Master," the chiptunes that power the musical movement blend in seamlessly with Random's own brand of personable, enlightened lyricism. Rather than clash, they coalesce.

The word I'm grasping for here is transcend. It can't be easy to balance misty childhood memories and hard lessons learned with digital escapism, but Forever Famicom does it. And it does it flawlessly.

You see, just as Boogie Down Productions colored hip-hop with dancehall and A Tribe Called Quest melded rap and jazz, Ran and K-Murdock have turned the novelty of chip-hop on its ear. The songs don't sound like cash-ins and they don't sound like sonic experiments and they don't even sound like fan service. They just sound relevant and genuine. And beautiful.

Joints like "World Tree," with its rapid-fire namedropping of eighties TV shows, "Drop the Load," which laments the shortcomings of modern games via intentionally stilted vocals delivery, and convention anthem "CONtact" definitely play up the nerdy pop culture angle, but tracks like "The Girl with the Make-Up" and "Galaxies" come off as brilliantly earnest as any more traditionally produced hip-hop, even though their musical beds are deeply rooted in familiar, minimalist blips and bloops.

You can subdivide any musical movement into more minute elements, and in that regard we can color a specific artist or project as chip-hop or nerdcore or grime or death rap or gangsta. But at the end of the day songs succeed by leveraging whatever musical minutiae they employ to the proper end; by being engaging and, yes, transcending.

And in that very important regard, Forever Famicom is simply another delicious flavor of true hip-hop.

Those of you lucky enough to receive the same media leak that I did can back me up, but I'm afraid the rest of you will simply have to wait until June. At which time, I guarantee, you'll see how right I am.

"Haters call you addicts, but I just know you just passionate."


DV said...

Now I am excited! Thanks, Z.

Z. said...

As well you should be, Data! ;)