Instrumental hip hop has had – oh let’s just say it – a bad rap in the last five years. A hit rap song always came with an instrumental, either on the 12″ or on the cassingle. In truth, we should have been used to it. But DJ Shadow’s “Endtroducing…” album, released five years ago this October, forced the hip hop world to realize that the music claimed by other groups, the music given names by other musical experts, was really (and always) our own. Trip hop? Phooey.
Nobody has gained a reputation for himself in the last five years as well, producing tracks for others and coming out with noteworthy tracks under his own name, either in 12″ or compilation form. “Soulmates” is an album that continues with the exploration of instrumental hip hop, proving once again that it can hold up on its own merits without the need of an actual voice.
With that said, Nobody did manage to include a few of his MC friends for one track on each of the album’s four sides (or for you digital fiends, one rap track every 12 minutes or so). They include Abstract Rude in the awesome “Inner Eye” (“Calculations of the information / funneled down to your membrane / tricked down like an economic theory, we’re teary eyed / Reaganomics gave us AK’s, Bush just pushed mud in their eyes”), 2Mex in the trippy “Shades Of Orange”, Freestyle Fellowship are reprsented in an ‘Oscillations Version’ of “Planets Ain’t Aligned”, and Medusa battles the fine line between underground and the mainstream in “Fiend Or The Fix”. It is Medusa’s track that comes in about nine minutes into the album, and with the instrumental mood tracks that precede it her song almost slows down the pace that Nobody had been trying to create. The other MC’s manage to fit their flows with Nobody’s sounds, and Medusa almost seems out of place, not that her message should be ignored by any means.
However, if it’s a voyage that you want to go on, you’ll go quite far with “Soulmates.” Weird and unknown sounds can be a bad stereotype of what dominates instrumental hip hop, but it is created with a hip hop mentality where the drums are the core, and the sounds around it help create a mood, similar to the tones of someone on the mic. Nobody’s love of progressive and psychedelic rock from the 60’s and 70’s shine through every track, including “For Those Who Never Dream”, “Sixth Sense” and “Tone Therapy”. Rock groups from back then wanted to take you to another world by creating so-called “worldly” sounds, Nobody does this by manipulating these songs and creating his own unique soundscape. At times the music sounds eerie, almost fearful, but the way he cuts up the tracks insures that his songs are done cleverly. Or maybe Nobody is the clever one.
“Soulmates” is good enough to drop in the background of a party and just ignore, and perfect enough for a night of headphone drama. The cover photo, taken by B+ (Brian Cross), has a shot of Nobody and his girlfriend Susie, standing behind a beaded curtain, looking at each other. It’s an extremely simple idea, but somehow compliments the different sounds found within. The production stands out, and hopefully this will lead to much more great music for this LA sound master.