Simultaneously one of the greatest and stupidest ideas ever, the
self-explanatory Dakah Hip-Hop Orchestra gives us expectedly mixed
results. The Roots proved not only that live hip-hop could work but
also be commercially successful, and in an era when the RZA is
interviewed on NPR's "Fresh Air," it was only a matter of time before
someone thought, Hey, you know that genre that was created by poor kids
who couldn't afford instruments so they developed their own music using
what was available to them? Let's make that sound with a
giant fucking orchestra so we can play it at Disney Hall and pretend
like it still has a connection to its roots!
Of course, if members of the Los Angeles-based collective were that sarcastic, they probably wouldn't have gone through with it, and it isn't hip-hop but classical music that needs a giant kick in the ass these days (I don't care what the fucking New York Times says). But even if you're looking at San Francisco Debut [Live] for modern sensibilities in classical arrangements, this album still isn't that good.
A lot of the three-part first disc, titled "Reepus II in a Minor Movement I, II, and IV" (III is so passé), is fairly safe, world-style dance music. To its credit, it's good dance music, the kind that gets funky one minute and rocks the house the next. The sixty-plus musicians in the symphony are talented musicians -- not necessarily under the best supervision by project organizer Double G (or GG, yeah), but holding it down nonetheless.
But then the rappers come in and ruin the vibe. Orchestras fronted by vocals are terrible (fuck you musical theater) and the lyrics are just ho-hum. Check "Beautiful unraveling sound darts encoded" (huh?), and "Ain't no way to stop us; it'll get no realer." Really?
The second disc is throwaway: a few covers and references to the obvious influences (the Roots and Gang Starr, in particular) alongside some watered-down soul music on "California Soul." It's mediocre hip-hop that could have been made in a basement somewhere. And that's what someone seems to have forgotten with this whole project: you can make this sound with samples. You can get any sound you want. That's the beauty of hip-hop.
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