A throwback album is often deemed “a breath of fresh air,” because hip-hop culture has become diluted with the clutter of the mainstream engine’s run-off. It is becoming harder and harder to expect truth and passion from an artist, so we hope for it instead, and rejoice when such material arrives. Shiny suits aside, we must assume that each artist is making music in his or her own way. The culture’s affiliation with mainstream media has affected certain types of hip-hop in a negative fashion, but the music’s original ideals are still very relevant. True artists are not hard to find, but the idea of “truth” for some artists differs greatly from purists’ ideals.
I must say, I am getting a bit tired of those in the underground who are exceedingly self-righteous. Dopeness, channeled through both beats and rhymes, is the only thing I look for initially, and unless one’s case against the mainstream is particularly compelling, I’ve heard it too many times to care. So many artists have been billed as “innovative” in their decision to return to the less polluted age of rap, but the fact is that everyone is giving this a shot. With so many slamming the behavior of artists on B.E.T., the message has been blurred. With this in mind, there is only one thing to look for in a release of this kind: dopeness. Thankfully, because I am not in the mood to rant anymore, Asamov’s debut “And Nowâ€¦,” is plenty dope, with no hidden propaganda of any kind.
In actuality, this group, consisting of Therapy, Willie Evans, Jr., Basic, and J-Wonda, might be more innovative than I give them credit for. After all, they are from Jacksonville, Florida, one of the last major cities that I expected to hear from. The concept of this record is quite simple. The producers, Therapy and Willie Evans Jr., make some nice beats for themselves and their mates to rock to. 9th Wonder keeps the Eastern Seaboard connection going by assisting with a beat, and underground legends like Mr. Lif, Akrobatik, and J-Live lend their vocal talents as well.
The impressive first single, “Supa Dynamite,” leads the hype machine for this record and falls near the middle of the tracklisting. Mr. Lif swings by to rock over the pounding uptempo piano and horns, and the raucous hook shouts out practically every underground hotspot in America before spreading out across the world. Nothing spectacular is said, but the song is just really, really nice. The guys are just having fun, as they do throughout most of the record, and because of them, so am I.
The record’s production is beautiful in a standard way, employing melodic loops over thumping drums throughout. Therapy and Willie Evans Jr. have obviously been influenced my hero DJ Premier in their production style, because there are a few tracks that resemble Primo’s technique. This is both a blessing and a detriment, because the music sounds consistently nice but rarely unique. “Hookslide” has those rhythmic horns that Primo might have flipped in the mid-nineties, but any similarities cannot be faulted because the sound is so nice. The Akrobatik-assisted “Git Loose” sports the most remarkable similarities, an exact replica of a Work of Mart that doesn’t even exist. Any resistance based on this similarity is futile, though, because the sound is so dope. Also, Primo was never a complete trailblazer, and there is no copyright on styles, so no one should really have a problem with this. There really are only a few obviously influenced songs. The producers create their own distinctive noise in several other places, and the record is unified through their music rather than the performances of the rappers.
Almost every track is worth repeating, but a misstep is to be expected. “Fem Fems” simply sounds out of place and abrasive, and the formerly smooth production is replaced by a staggering drunk track that cannot pick up speed. The crew cannot seem to catch this beat, and I don’t blame them.
The references to hip-hop’s past are both implicit and explicit. “Suckas” takes KRS-One’s voice for the hook, and instead of feeling uncomfortable, it is the perfect touch to the track, reminding us of what Asamov is trying to do. A couple of points are overdone, as they directly quote Rakim, Biggie, etc. to evoke the past. This is frustrating because they do such a marvelous job of exuding an old-school vibe through conversational raps, occasional social jabs, and a bit of partying. For the most part, in terms of taking it back, they walk the walk rather than reminding us how pure they are.
Thankfully, rather than overbear with their “innovative” styles that consist of rapping about others’ fakeness, Asamov is simply dope, and they try not to do anything they aren’t capable of. This is a nice record, one of the better that I have heard this year, and no one should have a problem with its unassuming, laid-back nature. I recommend this album to anyone who can dig some well-done hip-hop.