If you are someone who likes to plan ahead, maybe you have been wondering what the year 2012 has in store for you. If you have children, you will approximately foresee the specific parenting problems you will be dealing with in five years. But other than that, who really knows what the future holds? Well, the (almost) all-knowing contributors to Wikipedia are making an ongoing effort to give you a taste of the things to come in 2012, as well as in other upcoming years and even decades. The disclaimer that accompanies Wiki’s entry on 2012 states: ‘This article or section contains information about scheduled or expected future events. It may contain tentative information; the content may change as the event approaches and more information becomes available.’ Makes sense, don’t it?
If things go as scheduled, the Summer Olympics will be held at London in the United Kingdom, whose Queen Elizabeth II, if still on the throne, will have reigned for sixty years straight. The United States will go through another presidential elections frenzy. The Earth’s population will reach the seven billion mark. America and China will launch new spacecrafts, Orion and Kuafu, respectively. The Kyoto Protocol will expire and its goals will most likely not be met, one contemporary scientist instead of global warming predicting a little ice age to start in 2012.
In a time when science rivals premonitions and prophecies in predicting gloom and doom, it is interesting to see the latter still making up the bulk of information we apparently have on any given year in the future. The larger part of Wikipedia’s look into the year 2012 lists metaphysical and astrological predictions, some brighter, some darker. From meteorites hitting our planet, to natural laws undergoing changes, to extraterrestrials returning to complete whatever fate they have in mind for us, to “an evolution of the human race into non-corporeal beings made of ‘spiritual’ energy,” to some ancient Mayan cycle completing itself and initiating global changes, anything seems possible. Lest we forget seventeenth-century English mystic Father Robert who predicted, “If inn evile shalt thou dellve, the world shalle ende in 2012.”
Wiki’s 2012 references in popular music mention, among others, a certain Dudley Perkins, who in 2006 released the full-length “Expressions (2012 A.U.)” on the Stones Throw label. The latest project Dudley Perkins is involved in, the collaboration album “Beautiful Mindz,” is notable for several reasons, one being somewhat of an inside RapReviews.com scoop. Last year, writer Andrew Matson, in his coverage of her album “Olesi: Fragments of an Earth,” described songstress Georgia Anne Muldrow as the sum of Dudley Perkins and Erykah Badu. Now Perkins and Muldrow headline the same gig, booked by UK DJ/producer 2tall. The combination of the two vocalists, both Stones Throw signings, comes natural, especially since they already collaborated on last year’s “Coming Home” track. The third man, DJ 2tall, is more elusive, but has reportedly been part of the UK DMC 2003 Team Championship-winning Truesicians, and since then has ventured into production.
It is a promising threesome that takes part in “Beautiful Mindz.” The promise is not quite kept, mostly because despite the billing Perkins and Muldrow only appear on four tracks together. It’s ladies first on the opening “Introduction,” whose first half she handles herself, assuring herself that “nothing can be / an obstacle as long as I believe / in what I can achieve,” and reporting for duty as “a solider in the army of the funk.” Then it’s 2tall and Dudley’s turn as they take over from her acapella stylings with a funky backing and mission statements from the “minister of fine arts and heir to the kingdom of the funk.” According to the man who in another lifetime used to go by the name of Declaime, the trio has come to “dust the cobwebs from your mind,” and while you discover to your regret that the track is over all too soon, you’re most definitely geeked for what is to come.
For the moment, Muldrow is out of the picture, as “ATall” finds Perkins expanding on the ‘(2012 Afta Us)’ subtitle of his previous album. 2tall’s track is a melody-heavy, slowly burning composition for the Californian to muse on current and upcoming events. “There’s a lotta things goin’ on in this world today, and not too many of us are doin’ anything about it,” he says as he strolls into the track. Sticking to the mixture of semi-singing and meditative mumblings that is his trademark since 2003’s “A Lil’ Light,” the following is as close as this album gets to observing traditional verse structure:
“Oh no, here we go
A switch-up of the North Pole
Sucked into a black hole
So it’s best that y’all know your soul
The Mayans and their math
2012 is approachin’ fast
The Earth, it started with a blast
We in the last… and who shall last?
From sun up to sun down
Too much water, so I guess we’ll drown
Every town, it gets burned down
Not a peep and not a sound
till the walls of Babylon come fallin’ down”
It’s not exactly Killah Priest or Vinnie Paz material, but he manages to infuse his observations with a sense of urgency and a conviction that many rapid-fire rhyme spitters lack: “Cause this is real / on how I feel / so I heal / from now until / the days when this Earth stand still / and best believe me, I know it will.” Without being too familiar with apocalyptic visions, my guess is that many of them invite people to better themselves in order to prepare for or even prevent the end of the world. That at least is what Dudley Perkins seems to aim for. As he warns in “ATall,” “the heartbeat of the Earth (…) is at a fast rate.” But according to this poetical prophet this quickened pulse doesn’t have to lead to collective collapse, it also helps to heighten our awareness: “As we vibrate at this fast rate, we expand consciousness all over the land.”
Hence our mysteriously dubbed Poet Past the Weak mans his “Crate Digger Station, broadcastin’ out to you / a little love, a little truth.” Insisting on including “everybody on this planet,” “Beautiful Mindz” serves as a strong indication that Dudley Perkins is Declaime’s way to reach out to whoever he could not connect with as a rapper. He is, essentially, the reincarnation of both the optimistic rhythm & bluesman and the smart funkateer of yesteryear. “Let no man be left behind,” he vows on “A Beautiful Mind,” adding, “I’ll find that you’re a beautiful mind.” Dudley appeals to the good in all of us. He believes that “we all have (…) the ability called compassion.” Where other artists despair of the human condition and counter hate with hate, this human has decided to “aim straight for the heart / tear this hate thing apart.”
Good intentions abound, which for the most part are supported by solid musical performances. DJ 2tall has to be commended for digging for original, obscure material and shaping it into subtle but sustainable structures that in their intuitive, intimate funkiness match the spirituality of the vocals. Standout performances include Dudley Perkins getting his Curtis Mayfield on on the sparkling “Newniss” and the somber “Poet Past the Weak” mixing melodramatic strings and thumping drums while the rapper commands: “No more coon music / watch the way you use it / I got my eye on all / and won’t stand by and watch the good ones fall.” And in a welcome nod to hip-hop, DJ 2tall compiles cut-up quotables from the album for “Messagez.”
Sadly, some of 2tall’s experiments expire too soon, as they are relegated to interlude status. These more left-field backdrops would have certainly presented a welcome challenge to these adventurous vocalists. Also, the line-up calls for a much stronger invovlement of Georgia Anne Muldrow, in a manner how acts like Sol.ILLaquists of Soul or Arrested Development combine male and female singing and rapping. You virtually have to wait for track 13, her solo effort “Ain’t That Strange,” for her to regain the prominent role she plays at the very top of the album. Even during their few actual encounters, the potential of the collaboration remains unfulfilled. On “U R” they both fail to reach the levelof a beat that makes every attempt to remain interesting but is affected by repetitious vocals. While the funky streaks of “Fonkwitme” only surface once the vocals leave the stage to the bassline.
Nevertheless, with DJ 2tall getting to exhibit his arthouse funk and Dudley being allowed to give full expression to his savior complex, “Beautiful Mindz” is a highly interesting, uncategorizable release Stones Throw supporters should definitely check out. It ain’t Madlib, but in style and in spirit it comes very close.