On Droppin’ Science Fiction, Gift of Gab from Blackalicious, fellow Quannum artist Lateef the Truth Speaker, and San Francisco producer Headnodic collaborate with each other and a dizzying array of artists to take a genre-hopping trip through hip-hop that touches on everything from standard posing and lyrical showcases to the hip-hop equivalent of yacht rock. This varied approach highlights the strengths of the individual contributors, but it leaves Droppin’ Science Fiction overstuffed with good ideas that get lost in the shuffle of the three band members and copious guests.
With a group of all-stars, the main problem is making a workable team out of players used to being the focus of the organization. Often the result is a watered-down game plan the main drawback of Droppin’ Science Fiction is a conflict of style and point of view by the individual players. The third track, “So Sad,” features Julian and Damian Marley and includes a passionate, positive message of urban renewal coupled with a passionate call to action. It is disorienting that this track is immediately followed by MF Doom on “Gunfight.” The song, recorded over a souped-up Sergio Leone beat, offers the standard menace about traveling with “strapped with a six-shooter shooter next to my six-pack and my sawed-off slung over my right shoulder.” Though the lyrics and flow are good, it’s hard not get judgmental when very real societal problems are juxtaposed with the hyper-real, violence-laden boasts of rap posturing.
Droppin’ Science Fiction doesn’t give listeners the chance to think about the motivation of this pairing, switching instead to the humorous wordplay of “Ill Vacation,” which bounces along to a conclusion featuring a Bill Murray monologue from Stripes. Though each track might be a standout in its genre, the mash-up lacks coherence that would elevate the album from a collection of interesting parts to a more compelling whole.
That said, most of the tracks on Droppin’ Science Fiction showcase smooth rhymes over some truly inventive beats. Though the album doesn’t develop a theme throughout listening, the all-star analogy holds up. Even if the game as a whole is forgettable, there are bound to be a collection of truly impressive plays.
A funny thing happened on the way to forming the (arguably) first independent hip-hop label: each Solesides crew member wound up working more independently than with each other. Certainly, the intention of Solesides and Quannum was to put on each artist, but the lack of recent collaborations between the ol' homies is a bit disheartening for an old head like myself.
So, perhaps The Mighty Underdogs is a project best suited for the fan boys and girls. Emcees Gift of Gab and Lateef flow over Crown City Rockers bassist Headnotic's tracks, while recruiting some steady support from suitable colleagues like Chali 2na, MF Doom and even the Marley brothers. Rejoice further as the rest of the Solesides crew, including Lyrics Born and DJ Shadow, also stop by to join the festivities.
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