Album Review

Bang On Em! Exile, Dirty Science (Sound In Color)

Hip-hop producer Exile's record collection must still be sweating from this workout: debut solo album Dirty Sciencetwists/backbends/crabwalks/pole vaults/teleports/time travels/and tap dances between 18 tracks that push a top-notch roster of MCs to the edge of breathlessness. It's a total local-boy-makes-best story: scattered but impressive Exile production jobs for presidents like Mobb Deep and Jurassic 5 and residents like once-South-County-based Emanon made a great prelude for this long-in-coming debut release. Science showcases a strong style—Exile likes to make a melody out of a few carefully picked notes, likes to make sure you can hear the circuits humming when he pulls a hook out of a synthesizer, likes to sugar up a song with a beautiful background singer and likes to chop off a drumbeat in gigantic blocks—that never dissolves into shtick. Front-loaded track "Spittin' Image" sets traditional Exile collaborator Aloe Blacc on a tragic tale told at a panicked pace under somber Spanish-style fingerpicked guitar and moony violin, but then its flash-forward to Jontel and Miguel's "Summertime In LA," a loopy and lovable soul ballad about a trip to "the closest place where they're wearing bikinis/and playin' in the sand." The boys from Oxnard even make a road trip down the 5: underrated MC MED is bouncing along an uneasy beep-bleep beat that probably could have added another quarter-star or two to reviews of his own full-length. And then Oh No gets to build high on top of an orchestral banger—"Woo, banger!" he laughs right at the start—that's one of the peak points on a consistently elevated album. Plus Slum Village: Elzhi and T3 strutting through a line of it's-a-jungle-out-there verses that match nicely against digitized heat-of-the-night siren effects and a beat almost too catchy for the harsh subject matter ("We never knew our dads/the blocks raised us/ . . . they wonder why we die in locked cages.") And Ta'Raach—outpunching his own bass-drum with punchlines like "Let them niggas bling from their ass to their nostrils!"—and then a The Payback-funk-soundtrack for Trek Life, who puts in two minutes poking holes in paid-for radio playlists and then bows out for another banger with Canadian MC Kardinal Offishall. And of course grandmaster Ghostface himself on the climax, gifted here with a pixilated Beefheart-beat that slips and shivers as part of a watch-your-back warning to the showbiz labels. Not to be unfair to Exile by running through his list of collaborators, but it's to his credit that he's put together a solo record that sounds like an album—it flows without interruption from Slum Village through that who's-who of MCs to the jazz-soul "Silver Moon" instrumental and lets the shock set in later. A production outing like this is always something of a self-portrait, and here Exile paints himself as a guy who can do just about everything—a classic hip-hop Renaissance man, the kind of guy who's inventing helicopters in between making Mona Lisas.

Exile on 19th Street. Photo courtesy Sound In Color
Exile on 19th Street. Photo courtesy Sound In Color

EXILE AND BLU WITH J BOOGIE, ALOE BLACC, SCARUB AND STRANGE FRUIT PROJECT PLUS DJs COCOE, JOSH ONE AND SCOTTY COATS WITH JUD NESTER AND COTTON AT DETROIT BAR, 843 W. 19TH ST., COSTA MESA, (949) 642-0600; WWW.ABSTRACT-WORKSHOP.COM. SAT., 9:30 P.M. $10. 21+.

 
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