By LA Weekly
By Henry Rollins
By Weekly Photographers
By Shea Serrano
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Dan Weiss
By Erica E. Phillips
By Kai Flanders
As entertaining as Question and The Platform are in their mission to preserve and extend the new-school tradition, their devotion creates a cannibalistic cycle single-mindedly focused on making music for, by and about the underground. The result is that their albums feel redundant and didactic. There‘s nothing wrong with bragging about your superior beats and verses, but doing it over 15 cuts gives Platform an overfamiliarity by even halfway through, and subsequent listens fail to reveal any new secrets to marvel over.
At a hefty 74 minutes, PUTS could have eased the load on their album, too, but credit them with a diverse song selection and magnificent production. However, like Dilated, they’re overly conscious about representing the underground. When you brag about wanting to make ”‘93-style hip-hop“ 40 years hence, is that progression or regression? It’s clear that PUTS and Dilated are capable of much more.
Quasimoto‘s The Unseen risks the same fate with its staggering 24 songs (63 minutes), yet the album’s creative ballast prevents it from sinking under its own weight. The digitized doppelganger of producerMC Madlib (of Oxnard‘s the Lootpack), Quasimoto is an escape into a world of nonsensical imagination. Like PUTS, Madlib is a dedicated beat-digging fiend, offering ”Jazz Cats“ (a rundown of over two dozen influential musicians) and ”Return of the Loop Digga“ (self-explanatory). His tracks lack the polish of the PUTS or Dilated albums, but his laconic, lo-fi aesthetic is intentional. This rough-hewn approach gives The Unseen the sound and feel of a lost demo tape from ’92, except that no sane artist back then would have made an album with such bizarre, surreal songs. His selections, like ”Come on Feet“ and ”Put a Curse on You,“ don‘t follow any kind of narrative path or even straight rhyme pattern. Instead, The Unseen is a conversation between QuasiMadlib’s dueling alter egos, who argue back and forth over the music, only to be interrupted by spoken-word snippets grifted from the Last Poets and Melvin Van Peebles.
It‘s the album’s quixotic character that prevents Quasimoto from painting himself into a corner. While it‘s obvious that Quasi is a new-school child -- evident in his loop-heavy production and subject matter (beats, rhymes and weed) -- he doesn’t seem to care if he‘s staying true to anything but his own fancies. Not only does the album sample Van Peebles’ frantic vocals, it also shares an affinity with his spoken-word albums, such as Serious as a Heartattack -- both are most interesting when they take chances and risk alienation andor ridicule.
That‘s the most significant difference with The Unseen. It’s clearly inspired by an imagined nostalgia for the new school, but it‘s not self-conscious about its authenticity, or beholden to a tradition. Rather than mechanically reproduce the new school, Quasimoto is content with embodying its creativity, frolic and experimentation. Thus, The Unseen is less resurrection and more improvisation, and that’s perhaps the greatest tribute one can pay to the past -- taking its ideals and running with them anew.