There's only one thing I don't like about Dan the Automator's work: there ain't enough of it. Compared to Prince Paul, the *other* silly, supertight producer, he ain't done shit. Paul manned the ones and twos for Stetasonic, has done beats for everyone and their mother and has dropped two solo albums. (Even though "Psychoanalysis" may have been a bit out there for most cats (but "Booty Clap" is my jam), if all Paul had ever done was "Prince Among Thieves," he would still be a hip-hop hero.) He practically invented the hip-hop skit. And what has Dan done? Well, aside from the magnificent beats on "Dr. Octagonacologyst," not a whole lot. A short, mostly instrumental EP called "A Better Tomorrow" and "Handsome Boy Modeling School," his collaboration with Prince Paul (which was nowhere near as good as it could/should have been). Obviously, this cat has skills, I just wish he'd do more.
My wishes were granted when one of my superiors at the radio station blessed me with a full length Dan the Automator release: "A Much Better Tomorrow," an extremely expanded re-release of the original. Now, I knew I was getting sick beats. But, no matter how sick your beats are, unless you're DJ Shadow, you really can't hold down an entire album with just beats. Luckily, 8 of the 11 cuts feature emcees. Then I noticed that 6 of those 8 cuts featured Kool Keith. Judging from the recent crap Keith's been dropping, I was skeptical.
Keith suprised me...with a guest spot as Sinister 6000 on the opening track, "A Better Tomorrow." (He always does his best work as someone besides himself.) Even though I liked the rhymes, the beat left something to be desired cause that was most of the cut. The next track, however, gave me a bad case of neck-hurts-from-bobbing-my-head-too-damn-hard. "King Of NY" brought a few more rounds of solid Kool Keith over an extremely tight beat. Actually, with the exception of "I Want the Mic," which lags a bit, all four new Kool Keith cuts are super nice. ("I Want the Mic" is still nice, and it reunites Dan, Keith and Q-Bert, but I just didn't feel the beat or the lyrics all that much.) "Cartoon Capers" is absolutely classic. The hook is: "I know their crew/hey look/they down wit Skeletor." It's probably the silliest cut I've heard since Agallah's "Crookie Monster." The two older Kool Keith songs, "A Better Tomorrow" and "A Better Tomorrow pt. 2" aren't all that bad, but I like the never stuff better.
Of the remaining 5 cuts, 3 are instrumental and 2 feature other emcees. Neph the Madman (who I don't know at all) spits on "Wiling." The beat is kinda fast and features a really silly sample of someone half singing, half moaning. Neph's rhymes are good, nice and normal compared to Keith's, but nothing special. The other non-Kool Keith cut, "Buck Buck," features Poet and is probably my favorite on the whole album. I've never heard of Poet either, but he's definately from some Wu affiliate or has been on a strict diet of Method Man for the last five years, and he absolutely destroys Dan's Wu-sounding beat on some "listen to my nine mm go bang/shells drop from the glock/now you know you can't hang" shit. Mad tight.
Probably the only complaint I have about the album is the inclusion of the instrumental tracks, and they will come in handy as soon as I pick up the vinyl. It just get annoyed sitting through them on CD.
So go pick this up. Hear some dope beats. Hear Kool Keith on some weird shit again. It's sweet. And mad cheap too.
Music Vibes: 10 of 10 Lyric Vibes: 9 of 10 TOTAL Vibes: 9.5 of 10
Originally posted: September 16, 2000