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I-Hop MP3s with Zombie Swagger

It’s ironic how few hip-hop labels post free MP3 downloads. If ever there were a music-industry model for an art-market environment where information is appropriated fluidly and yet still available as a source of income, it’s hip-hop, much of which is built on samples from pre-existing recordings. Anyhow, over at the website of Definitive Jux, the record label home to El-P, RJD2, Cannibal Ox and others, there are two lightly swaggering backing tracks off rapper Aesop Rock‘s 2003 album, Bazooka Tooth (which, by the way, is worth picking up on vinyl for its Tomer Hanuka-illustrated gatefold cover alone). These vocal-free cuts subsequently appeared on 2004’s Build Your Own Bazooka Tooth, which, ingeniously, consisted of two CDs : one containing the instrumental versions of all the songs on Bazooka Tooth, and the other (yeah, you’ve figured this out already, but why not complete the sentence?) containing the a cappella versions.

It’s the longest day of the year, so celebrate with music that sounds like it only comes out at night. Both tracks move at a zombie’s pace, though with a little swing, “Frijoles” (MP3) taking its cues from Western soundtracks, with a hearty men’s chorus and what sounds like a busted theremin imitating Ennio Morricone’s iconic whistles. “Mars Attacks” (MP3) actually sounds like the undead sat in on the recording sessions, thanks to a vocal snippet mechanically slowed to a quarter-speed; it’s all sublimated flange and widely spaced beats until, midway, it switches gears, speeding up ever so slightly; subsequently the rhythm appears always on the verge of stumbling out of control. Bazooka Tooth includes production credits by El-P, Blockhead and others, but both of these were produced by Aesop (born Ian Bavitz) himself.

Like any good hip-hop figure, Aesop has a talent for recycling. If you want to know what he rapped over these instrumentals, you could pick up the original album, or you could grab his latest, Fast Cars, Danger, Fire and Knives, which includes a small booklet containing all his lyrics. Grab a mic, and you could really build your own Bazooka Tooth. More info definitivejux.net.

By Marc Weidenbaum

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