The concept of rap groups playing their own instruments has always been an appealing one. The idea directly conflicts with the negative pretenses many casual music listeners have about the genre in the first place. The seven person collective that consists of Animate Objects is one such hip-hop group that incorporates live instrumentals into their tracks, which first became popular with live performances from stellar groups like The Roots. It's a tall glass to fill, but Animate Objects aren't afraid of the task at hand.
"Riding in Fast Cars With Your Momma" is the new release from the featured group. Having a 'Dozens' name like that for an LP might make you assume that the Animate Objects' new disc is purely meant as a comedic experience. Actually, the album is not all laughs, there are moments that make you smirk, but there is a good range of material. More importantly it is an entertaining 'experience' unlike the typical rap album nowadays. The most apt comparison that can be made is to relate them to a jazzy, feel good group, like Jurassic 5 or Ugly Duckling.
"The Weight" kicks off the album with a snappy snare drum and nice DJ Premier-inspired scratch. The first line says it like it is, stating, "It's real hip-hop music." Ultimately this is just to set the mood of the album as emcee CZAR reflects on the conceptual aspect of the album, how there is a level connectivity to everything, inviting the listener to open their ears. It is a sad circumstance that they opt not to flow over the mellow beat that is constructed by the entire group but mostly accentuated with the slick sax work from member Peterson Ross.
No worries. The title-track comes through to get the head noddin'. This one is more driven by some high pitched synth-keys, offered by Artur Wnorowski. The song is infectious as it repeats "Riding!...in fast cars with your momma," for the hook. The real meaning of the song is mostly an ode to purely good hip-hop music, though, as substantiated by the rhymes:
"We paid the piper just to cross the bridge
To return to the place that we used to live
Forget the dough; forget the fancy cars and clothes
We take it back, what they stole, this is for the soul
The next will remind you of the days of old
Why you do what you told? We're here to break the mold
Your shit is garbage, no matter how many copies sold
Y'all are slaves, pick your chains platinum or gold?..."
Most of the disc has simple but enjoyable lyrics like these that make a listener recollect some top-notch old school rap material. There is one point later in the song that proves the skills of the emcee, CZAR Absolute, when the beat enflames with a guitar spike, the tempo changes, and they spit-fire onomatopoeias lyrics in a precise, tightly wound, form.
As the introduction alludes to, everything (every track) has its own story. "Phoenix" brings up the subject of a deceased father that still acts as a source of inspiration in overcoming shortcomings in life. There is a clear depth greater than most music out there. "Beautiful" has this feeling too. The latter fits its name perfectly as guest Charles Hammond Jr. croons the hook atop soft violin strings.
"El Dorado," the first single off the album, is responsible for Animate Objects gaining more popular according to CMJ's music charts. The single has also been chosen as a finalist for the 7th Annual Independent Music Awards. It shares the same excellent ingredients as the good majority of the tracks. It is perpetuated by an almost folksy style.
There's not too much to complain about when listening to the musicianship and rhythm of this strong piece of music, so you're spared the degradation trip. The only thing that can be fairly mentioned is that despite the variety of instrumentals, sometimes the sound can get slightly repetitive. Almost all of the songs are stylized to sound like jazz or funk; yet, it almost always works.
"Riding in Fast Cars With Your Momma" is one of those albums you put in your player and know that you are going to appreciate immediately. This album does not grow on you--it is growth. This is the direction that hip-hop needs to be going in: good lyrics, good musicianship, and good times. It comes as no wonder that they come from the Midwestern Mecca of music, Chicago, which seems to constantly spawn innovative artists. The Animate Objects' album sheds negative connotations associated with 'hustler rap' to bring a golden album, indeed.
Music Vibes: 9 of 10 Lyric Vibes: 9 of 10 TOTAL Vibes: 9 of 10
Originally posted: December 11, 2007