DJ Spinna :: Intergalactic Soul :: Shanachie Records
as reviewed by Pedro 'DJ Complejo' Hernandez

Last time a DJ Spinna album came across my desk it consisted of nothing but instrumentals and it left me with the impression that while solid, I would much rather hear DJ Spinna's work accompanied with vocalists. While I'm not pretentious enough to think that “Intergalactic Soul” is a result of my review, I am happy to see DJ Spinna put out a compilation CD of his beats with rappers and singers providing support. “Intergalactic Soul” is a fitting title for this collection of tracks as DJ Spinna evokes memories of the great soul music of the past but also provides his own modern sound. It's not a full rap album, matter of fact there's a lot more singing that rapping on the CD, but DJ Spinna's beats should please any fan's ears.

The highlight of “Intergalactic Soul” comes early as Phonte of Little Brother is featured on the title cut. It's the best rap track on the album and also one of the top tracks overall. On top of the guaranteed lyrical prowess Phonte delivers, Spinna's beat is equally noteworthy. Somehow Spinna crafts a beat that is full of soul, mimicking the feeling 9th Wonder's production evokes, but yet sounds futuristic. It may be the fact that “intergalactic” is in the title that plays subconscious mind games on the listener, but there's something about Spinna's beat that sounds fresher than your average fat soul track. Gut reaction would be to check the instruments to see if maybe Spinna is using some electronic synth sounds, but the very next track eliminates that explanation. “Where's Your Love” features N'Dea Davenport, of Brand New Heavies fame, lending her vocals to a trumpet and bass driven track. Sure, Spinna sneaks a few electronic sounds into the mix, but even on their own the bass and trumpet sound fresh. I'm not an expert on neo-soul or good singing voices so I can't tell you how great of a song it really is, but musically it sounds pretty dope.

The rest of the album takes a similar approach as Spinna consistently comes through with some seriously heavy and funky beats. The guests almost keep up, but their performances are of the type that rely on personal taste to be appreciated. By that I mean that I'm not a big fan of the Free Radikal's impression of Prince on “Outta Time,” but I'm sure someone will appreciate that style greatly. Eric Robertson delivers what I feel is a pedestrian vocal performance on “Butterfly Girl,” but given the song's uplifting message and sweet groove I'm sure there are plenty that can look past that. Outside of the rap and soul tracks, Spinna also manages to serve up a few instrumentals to keep things extra interesting. The best track out of those is “Computer Love.” Hip-Hop heads will most surely assume Spinna decided to craft a tribute to Roger and Zapp, but the track is actually an homage to Kraftwerk, a group from the 1980s that pioneered the electronic music movement and one which to hip-hop probably owes a lot.

“Intergalactic Soul” isn't for everybody, especially not hardcore rap fans. The raps, while plenty pleasing, are very sparse on this CD. If you can focus on the beats, or if you actually like soulful singing then “Intergalactic Soul” will be an interesting and satisfying experience. I would still like to see an album featuring today's hottest rappers lending their talents to DJ Spinna's beats. DJ Spinna's mixture of hip-hop, dance, and electronic music is definitely noteworthy and different, though it can be a bit boring at time. The singing does some to help avoid slow moments on the album, but I think Spinna's beats won't reach their full potential until they have the energy of a good rapper to compliment Spinna's laidback and mellow vibes.

Music Vibes: 8 of 10 Lyric Vibes: 7 of 10 TOTAL Vibes: 7.5 of 10

Originally posted: August 1, 2006