Monday, September 22, 2008

Horton The Irrelevant & August The Creep - Strange Passengers

One of the difficulties with reviewing an album of an artist that is considered "underground" is the lack of background information available. So, when I tell you that I know very little about Horton the Irrelevant and August the Creep it means I spent a good chunk of time trying to find details about their biography only to come up with scraps. I was tipped off to the duo by my Midwest Hip Hop Guru...yes, I have a hip hop guru. As their label describes them, "They are a decidedly underground group, yet refuse to ignore the influence of a wide-range of Hip Hop perspectives and musical genres." Andy Kaufman a.k.a. August The Creep (the producer) is originally from Connecticut, but met his MC counterpart while in college in Arizona. Horton (G.M. Karter) is from the hip hop wasteland of Madison, Wisconsin and moved to Arizona from college (maybe) where he met Kaufman. Again from their label: "August's travels led him to his native Connecticut, Boston and finally New Orleans. While continuing to make music, mostly focusing on the production aspect, August was displaced from his adopted home by Hurricane Katrina. Disenchanted and disheartened, August was among the minority that returned to New Orleans after the disaster. Known for his dark and layered production, a return to the ravaged city added to his perspective as an individual and musician." Now you know just about as much as I do, on to the music.

Strange Passengers has been out for a number of months (I think since January 2008) and probably will continue to fly under the radar just because that is the nature of this type of release and artist. Overall, the album has it's ups and downs with Horton coursing through 19 tracks in 49ish minutes with various degrees of wit and lyrical dexterity. The production of August is pretty solid overall, considering this was most likely produced in a bedroom or makeshift studio. The tracks I enjoyed most are the ones that are more soul and funk inspired with samples and interesting beats. This is not your commercial hip hop which tends to be kind of cookie cutter with recycled beats and predictable rhythms. This is quite the opposite. The album has both "concept" songs as well as more commercially viable material (read: could be danced to/played on the radio). I would only recommend this album to folks really looking to explore underground hip hop in a form that isn't so far "out there" such as myself. Many times, there is underground hip hop that tries to have too much of a message, or the production is just so spotty that it's hard to appreciate the ideas. Under-funded and under-produced hip hop takes a lot of patience. It takes a disciplined set of ears to hear what could be a great track from an artist or producer that really has no money for studio bells and whistles. In this same vein, I would go into this album with a very open mind. It probably won't blow you away, but if you take the time you'll definitely find at least a few tracks that your head will bob to back and forth.

"The Why"

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