Beat makers have been running the indie scene for a minute now. Even before Dilla’s passing, there was a noticeable shift in interest within underground fans. No longer were abstract battle rhymes selling themselves like they used to (one can only handle so much). Instrumental LP’s, remix projects, and producer-based albums soon became a hot commodity, and any label with an RJD2, Danger Mouse or Madlib sure knew it.

In 2007, the producer role is as strong as ever, with artists like Black Milk and Marco Polo releasing LP’s to almost unanimous critical acclaim. Dilla’s “Ruff Draft” EP fed his hungry following, and Thes One’s “Lifestyle Marketing” was a quiet hit. Following in the same vein as Pete Rock’s “Soul Survivor” series, Chicago-based producer Copperpot gives us “WYLA? (What’re You Looking At),” and delivers a strong performance.

For the first time in ages, it’s popular for producers to actually do their job again, in producing entire albums, and Copperpot has his hand in the practice here. The concept is simple: pick out a bunch of your better beats, and invite a slew of big names to spit on ’em. It’s the same formula that the aforementioned Soul Brother has used before, to great success and an obviously devoted following. Copperpot, who has clearly been influenced by Pete Rock himself, goes about his production work with great care, arranging his compositions like few others but keeping it funky and very listenable. His beats are sample-based, organic, slightly offbeat, and jazzy. He uses his bass lines to truly alter the original sample, much like Kev Brown and Dilla have been known to do.

There is no shortage of big name emcees on “WYLA?” Masta Ace’s remarkable ability to complain about the state of rap and make it sound relevant still sounds like something I need to hear, and his tag-team with Edo-G on “Art of Rap” is certainly a highlight. Prince Po of Organized Konfusion fame contributes to the title track, and femcee Psalm One rocks Copper’s superb, glitched-out “Blow.” Oh yeah, and some guy named KRS-One stops by on both the opening (and ill) “Come Back Home” and “Dem Know.”

And even though all the guest spots on “WYLA?” are nice, it quickly becomes a bunch of veteran emcees complaining about how they don’t get played on the radio. Even Braintax, who absolutely rips “Demo” to shreds, spends three minutes being critical of his rap-game peers. But even when the emcees falter, Copperpot’s beats always come to the rescue. He chops up “Let it Go” to a fine, jazzy bouncer, and “I Put a What” utilizes a great trombone sample. The interludes are particular highlights, possibly using multiple sample sources each and all hitting hard.

With many producer projects still on the way for 2007, it would look to be the year of the beat smith. To even be a face in the crowd would be a compliment, but Copperpot surely stands out.

Copperpot :: WYLA?
8Overall Score