It was late and all I could think was “I need to get outside.” I had been up till 3 in the morning – after several shots and more than enough beer. I spent the day in bed kind of sleeping and kind of listening to different records. Then finally at about 10 I came to life. And that liveliness was in part thanks to the genius that is Arts The Beat Doctor’s debut production album “Transitions.”
I read a review of this record that called him a cross between RZA (of the Wu-Tang Clan) and Nicolay (of Foreign Exchange). I can see the Nicolay comparisons if for no other reason than the simple fact that Arts calls the Netherlands home just as Nicolay did. That reviewer was right – there is something about the subtle grooves that are present throughout this album that remind you of the beats Nicolay constructed for Phonte to kill. I will have to disagree about the RZA comparisons – RZA is gritty, grimy and his genius comes from his sloppiness. The Beat Doctor is far from sloppy and what worked for the abbot of the Wu has rarely worked for anyone else.
“Transitions” is a journey through the mind of a musical genius. That is the only thing I can really call Arts The Beat Doctor. It’s obvious that the kid digs heavy in the crates but he comes with an amazing style that merges instruments with samples like I’ve never heard before. He is aware of this fact from the start and isn’t afraid to address it as the opening track is called “Blending Quality.” It starts with sounds of an ocean and then some reversed keys but cuts to silence before slowly fading back in and bringing in a vocal snippet that nails the definition of what is going to be heard for the next hour in your ears: “Essential what happens is you can employ all sorts of combinations to make different colors out of the sounds & it had a blending quality.” BOOM, hard drums kick in and you’re swept away into an album that you will not stop until it’s over – and then you will start it all over again just to be mesmerized again and again.
Ever since I first heard “Kind of Blue” by Mr. Miles Davis I have been a fan of Jazz and Hip Hop is simply my first love. I think Arts can relate to that as you listen to this record you can see the elements of the acid jazz movement (which was really just a combination of Jazz, Hip Hop & House) that was so prevalent in Europe in the 90’s and yet you still can feel Hip Hop in everything he constructs. His drums are trademark boom bap that will make any Preemo fan happy but he has added horns, vocal snippets and choruses, keys, synths and samples to the mix. Imagine DJ Shadow and Preemo collaborating with Coltrane or Miles and you will begin to hear this record.
While his music is in no way lacking without an emcee it’s quite cool to hear an emcee rhyme over a few of the tracks towards the end. Whenever I’ve listened to a producers album and it features emcees I’ve always wanted to see the beat be the key element and the emcee just play as another instrument on the track – but that is not the Hip Hop way in the states. On “All of Us” Pete Philly makes his first of three appearances (Arts and Philly have also made an entire album together called “Remindstate”) and he does just what I’ve always looked for. Delivers a hot verse but allows the beat to really be the message and his vocals are just a bonus. I will say that Pete Philly is a very fresh emcee which only helps make their songs that much tighter.
Hip Hop and those of us who tend to call ourselves “Heads” seem to have some kind of infatuation with the darkness and surrounding atmosphere that is night time. I know that I’ve long been plagued by sleepless nights because I’m mesmerized by a song or because I can’t quite get the beat in my head to play out on the MPC. “Transitions” is one of the best representations of that night time obsession. Walking the streets of Seattle at 11 pm with this in my headphones taking photo’s of graffiti proved to be the perfect soundtrack to my night and then I heard Pete Philly’s closing lines to his verse on “The Zone:”
“I’m truly in my element when night replaces the day”
Indeed we are and I most definitely was. Find this record by any means necessary.