(Mello Music Group)
To many boom-bap die-hards the SP 1200 is the definitive weapon of choice for any musical maestro worth their weight in dusty vinyl. The 1987 E-mu manufactured sampler is to Hip-Hop what the lightsaber is to the Jedi Order. In much the same way that Yoda wouldn’t consider someone a Jedi Knight until they’d completely mastered the space-age sword, there are many out there who won’t consider bestowing the title of Hip-Hop producer upon anyone who hasn’t paid their dues on the same piece of equipment that birthed so many classics in the hands of legends like Paul C., Pete Rock and Lord Finesse.
Noted for its notoriously limited sampling time, the SP pushed golden-age producers to the limits of their creativity, leading to some inspired breakthroughs in studios everywhere as the likes of Marley Marl and Showbiz squeezed everything they could from the machine in order to bring to life the soundscapes that blasted loudly in their mind’s eye. Fast-forward to the present day and with all of the new technology available to make the creative process easier and faster, it would take a dedicated boom-bap disciple to disregard such convenience and still insist on crafting their beats via the SP 1200.
Enter Texas-based producer Gensu Dean. Refusing to abandon the trademark gritty, warm sound of the SP for the slicker feel of more recent advancements, Dean’s Mello Music Group debut manages to carry on golden-era tradition without sounding dated or redundant. “Lo-Fi Finghaz” isn’t the work of a producer simply refusing to let go of the past regardless of the quality of the finished product, rather it’s the sound of a musician choosing to work with the equipment he knows will enable him to create the best music he possibly can.
Having remained under the radar for much of his career (Dean’s first production credit was on Southern duo Crooked Lettaz’ 1999 album “Dark Skies”), this debut album has been a long time coming and it’s obvious from listening to the project that the talented beat-digger wanted to ensure he dropped a release that would stand the test of time. The level of production heard on “Lo-Fi Fingahz” remains high throughout, with every cut here deserving of its place on the final tracklisting.
Featuring a varied selection of emcees, all of the collaborations included on “Lo-Fi Fingahz” sound completely natural, with Gensu’s masterful boardwork ensuring the album remains cohesive rather than simply sounding like a compilation.
The full-bodied “In My Head” finds Brand Nubian’s Sadat X and Lord Jamar blessing knocking drums laced with quirky keyboard flourishes, as the Wild Cowboy drops god-body science and J-A-mother-effin’-M-A-R highlights the benefits of releasing music in today’s digital-age (“Nothing to press up, Nothing to ship out”). NY-born, Atlanta-based emcee HeadKrack makes a notable appearance with his solo track “It’s Just Him”, attacking Dean’s dramatic blend of thumping beats and blaxploitation-style guitar licks with aggressive intelligence (“My music ain’t for the dancers, It’s for the people who question the answers”).
Strong Island’s Sputnik Brown are on-hand to rock the same 1973 Betty Lavette break used on Stezo’s 1989 classic “To The Max”, whilst the chopped guitar, haunting female vocal sample and thick drums of “Forever” provide the perfect neck-snapping backdrop for a typically timeless Large Professor performance.
The upbeat “Extra Extra” is a joyous slice of feel-good boom-bap featuring the positive lyrical vibes of UK duo The Planets, whilst one-half of the British pair, Nomadic, also appears on the stripped-down transatlantic collabo “12 Jewelz” with Roc Marciano, proving that from the pavements of London to the sidewalks of New York it’s still politics as usual.
A great body of work, “Lo-Fi Fingahz” proves undoubtedly that Gensu Dean’s faith in his trusty SP 1200 definitely wasn’t misplaced. One man, one machine, one quality album.
Gensu Dean ft. Large Professor – “Forever” (Mello Music Group / 2012)