All Natural, Molemen | Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

All Natural, Molemen 

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I'm an advocate of recycling, but when it comes to hip-hop beats the blue-bag routine gets old fast--I'm particularly tired of hearing loops cribbed from the Jameses (namely James Brown and Rick James). Chicago's new wave of hip-hop crews is exciting in part because its best exponents don't retread the same worn samples but dig up new ones from all kinds of unexpected places. All Natural's DJ Tone B. Nimble must have a record collection deep enough to sink a mine shaft into; on his group's second full-length, Second Nature (Thrill Jockey), he unearths moody vibes and echoey piano, straight jazz and ultradramatic sound-track music, and especially lots of lush exotica strings. He's a master recontextualizer, a turntablist who understands that under the right fingers cheese can be spun into gold, and his dexterity is truly dazzling. On "Uncle Sam" he builds a minimalist sound sculpture by incrementally changing a sparse four-note piano loop; he adorns "Elements of Style" with a cheery modulating vibraphone theme, and anchors "Queens Get the Money" with pizzicato strings and a locked-hands piano motif. Five of the album's cuts were produced by His-Panik or Memo of the Molemen, and that collective's brand-new disc, The Ritual of the...(Molemen Records), is just as well stocked with creative beats and obscure samples. Their raps are couched in a colder, more menacing sound--flat, hard 4/4 drum tracks (recalling classic Boogie Down Productions cuts), detourned easy-listening fragments, popping bass. Memo builds "Unbreakable" accretively, its opening guitar loop gradually joined by interjections of swelling pseudo-Middle Eastern strings and a pumping piano line, all embellished with a set of weird, indecipherable vocal samples. An out-of-tempo harpsichord rolls slowly atop "Keep the Fame (Remix 01')," and on "No Guarantees" His-Panik uses an interrupted bit of piano as a rhythmic device, the sample keeping time like a drummer on a ride cymbal. This showcase for new Chicago hip-hop will also feature Dug Infinite and Bamski, Mass Hysteria, DJs 3rd Rail and Rude One, and members of the Family Tree crew. Out of respect for All Natural rapper Capital D's Muslim beliefs, no alcohol or tobacco will be permitted at the show. Monday, May 28, 9 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western; 773-276-3600.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photos/Jim Newberry.

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