Kenny Segal :: Ken Can Cook :: Project Blowed
as reviewed by Emilee Woods

The Project Blowed roster is deep. Jacques Cousteau could never get this low. That kinda deep. Sure, everyone knows Aceyalone can rock a mic like no other, and other Blowedians like his Haiku d'Etat brethren Abstract Rude and Myka 9 have gotten their share of shine in the underground, but it's hard for the unacquainted to imagine that talent could run so completely from top to bottom as it does in this crew. With "Ken Can Cook," resident beatmaker Kenny Segal has added his name to the roster of go-to guys in the Project Blowed stable, as his debut album showcases a knack for dusting off sumptuous samples and crafting them into delectable loops for the Blowed MCs to flow over, and it makes for quite a tasty dish.

While the producer-as-chef metaphor has certainly been done before, Kenny makes it entirely his own on this album, building beats up from scratch and topping them off with assorted pop culture soundbites a la Madlib, creating a verbal collage of chopped up, food-themed commentary over his head-nodding tracks. For their part, the MCs provide solid accompaniments to Mr. Segal's concoctions, though never quite overshadowing the man behind the boards.

The opening "Ken Can Cook Theme" is an instrumental that is indicative of the style of the whole album, with its lazy piano loop, tight scratches, and a fresh drum track that is refreshingly switched up throughout. It's followed up by "Backyard BBQ," a killer posse cut featuring Abstract Rude, Aceyalone, NoCanDo, Busdriver, and Dr. Oop, and featuring a swangin guitar loop and drum track. While Ab declares "I tear it up, I'm gooder for ya than asparagus," NoCan's verse stands out among the crowd:

"I hate the 10, great, I'm late again
My girl is drivin safe as sin and I'm prayin for fate to save my skin
I'm wonderin what everybody ate at Ken's
Fader, Ab, Ace, and them are playin poker, let the games begin
I arrive, 5:59, Yoda greets me
I'll take my beer over easy, I mean close to freezing
Red Stripe, Corona drinking, it's all goin breezy
Till I told 'em I got caught in traffic, now they don't believe me
Salmon, salad, corn, and salsa, filtered water, soda, vodka
Charred chicken, corn on the cob, and some sort of pasta
Ken can cook but his lady Kim can too
And this was damn good, I didn't have to bring my canned foods
I'll just pig out like a young man should
Chill on the patio made of sun-tanned wood
Like you'll see me here as long as there's free beers
And next time I'll bring three peers
Later, geezers!"

"Gringo Tacos" featuring 2Mex of the Visionaries switches up the vibe with a grooving bassline and reggae style upbeats while 2Mex quips, "I go to TGI Friday's on Saturday and I eat a sundae and call it a weekend all in one day." The Aceyalone solo track "Food on the Table" features one of the more straightforward drum tracks on the album but is spiced up with little touches added to the beat throughout, including synth arpeggios, stabs of saxophone notes, and soft cymbal crashes. Lyrically, it's a standard Ace One affair, with the memorable hook: "cuz everybody ain't able / to put food on they mama mabel and keep it stable / used to get it from the navel / now it's hand to mouth, groceries in the house." "Poker Chili" is an instrumental track, if you can call it that. It has dialogue samples mixed in throughout, including lots of fun juxtapositions of, duh, card playing and cooking itdbits. Oh, and the music is on point again, with more jazzy keys syncopated all over the track and punctuated with short bass riffs.

Interestingly enough, "Jerk Chicken" with Dr. Oop is the song that I keep finding myself coming back to. This track features tinkling keys, swinging drums, and a bluesy vocal sample full of double entendres, and Dr. Oop rides the beat flawlessly, spinning his tales of disappointing evenings with unworthy ladies ending up in "jerk chicken at the pad." It's a definite highlight, as is "Pot Luck," another posse cut of lesser known Blowed MCs who more than hold their own on the mic. Here, frenetic drums, bell accents, intermittent bass, and a descending melody line guide the composition throughout, and Dumbfoundead absolutely kills his verse.

"This is a Joy Luck pot luck prepared by the Iron Chef
Boiled up hot stuff, leavin you with fire breath
Ancient Asian recipe, eatin on the diner set
Don't be greedy, only take a piece or a bite of it
Call it an acquired taste, culinary biters ain't
picked a pickled pepper from my special Peter Piper plate
Slice of cake, nicely baked, to finish off the night we ate
To celebrate the gathering we gotta down this sake straight
You know I'ma swing through and not to seem rude
But if Ken Can Cook do I have to bring food?
We've got to see the news, you wouldn't believe the amount of pots that we brew
We rock the beef brews"

Despite his exceptional delivery, I'm still sure I missed a few words there due to sheer velocity.

"Stoner Blind Taste Test" is another "instrumental" track built from funk guitars, vocal samples, and heavy low-end bass, and it has some seriously funny dialogue mixed in as well. At one point, someone declares, "Remember: gotta have your priorities straight. Weed. Meat. And Beer," as the beat transitions to a more smoothed-out section with atmospheric synths. Plus, anything with a Ren & Stimpy sample is a winner in my book. Finally, the album closes with a pair of Abstract Rude tracks. "Last Meal" revolves around a beautiful rising and falling piano sample that it's hard to take your musical eye off of, with Ab singing about a death row inmate on "the isle of Armathon, where one society stores its unwanted," whose journey he narrates through his final feast. Things finish off with "Last Words," a track of rim shots, jazz bass, sax samples, and Ab Rude adlibs that round things off nicely.

By this point, Kenny has peppered your palate with a variety of jazzy beats whose subtle construction will grow on you each time you listen, showing a particular knack for chopping up swanky keys arrangements and pairing them up with live-sounding drums. This is one where the beats are definitely front and center, even despite the can't-miss lineup of guest MCs, and the pop culture samples and razor sharp scratches provide that additional flourish. With "Ken Can Cook," Kenny Segal has proven himself to be another sure shot in the Project Blowed arsenal. Can it get any deeper?

Music Vibes: 9 of 10 Lyric Vibes: 8 of 10 TOTAL Vibes: 8.5 of 10

Originally posted: March 11, 2008