If you're already familiar with DJ Cosm you've probably heard his work for the well regarded Canadian group Dragon Fli Empire. If you're not familiar, here's a quick snippet of biographical information provided by his record label.
"Cosm was born and raised in Calgary. He fell in love with hip-hop music and DJing while in grade school. He has applied (his) knowledge to a self-taught talent for making hip hop beats and deejaying, and has excelled in both fields. As a producer, he has collaborated with a number of top acts including Masta Ace, Craig G, Prince Po, Raashan Ahmad and Insight. As a DJ, he has hosted programs on CJSW-FM for over 10 years."
Respect for the culture, check. Dues paid, check. Essential credentials to make his solo project worth checking out - checkmate. Despite this there's cause to pause, as Alex Sheremet was openly critical of a previous Dragon Fli release, accusing them of never getting beyond "pleasant listen" status and creating truly innovative hip-hop. With that in mind I'm looking for what DJ Cosm can achieve outside the constraints of the group dynamic. With an ambitious and Whovian title like "Time and Space," he's almost promising that he can pluck talent from anywhere/anywhen in hip-hop and do something intriguing with them musically. It's time to throw open those blue police doors and find out whether what he's got in store is brilliant, terrifying, or both.
"Hi" featuring Rasul Syed (a/k/a Mangolassi) certainly starts things out on a promising note. There's a laid back feel to this song that's more Cali than Calgary, a breezy hit of R&B plus jazz that allows Rasul to flow like water over the beats. His tongue seems to always be on the virtue of going numb from being too relaxed, but the diction stays clear and in tact throughout. Now I don't know if fellow writer Alex would have considered Rasul's rap "exceedingly clever" as such, but I was impressed enough to upgrade it from "pleasant listen" to "witty and fresh."
"You know the trials, tribulations
The wild jubilations, the wild lose they patience/patients
like a nurse that don't concentrate
OJ fresh squeezed, every day feelin great
Well at least the last few I have
Gotta keep it movin 'til I see what a view I have
And it ain't nuttin wrong with gettin right
I am dead serious, you suckers need to get a life
... like a video game do
Your buttons get pushed, then they pay you
And me and Cosm, we ain't into that
You chumps came in, so I ain't into rap
I'm into what rap fin' to change to
Can you feel it? Nothin can save you
I sip green tea and not Grey Goose
And ladies greet me on the street like 'Hey you... hi!'"
15 more tracks leave a lot of room for error on "Time and Space" but the errors are fairly hard to find. The tickling of ivories and turntables on "Woke Up" featuring Raashan Ahmad of the Crown City Rockers is hard to tire of, and the clever use of a Slick Rick refrain will appeal to the old school without boggling the new generation. "Beyond the Horizon" featuring Insight pulses with a Knight Rider intensity, drawing you along at top speed into a multi-layered musical melody that never drowns out the lyrical track despite the use of distortion vocal effects. There are names you know and names you may just be starting to throughout, from Qwazaar of Typical Cats on the mellow "Better World," to the old school meets new school collaboration of Craig G and Moka Only on the aptly titled "Past, Present, Future." And for you Organized Konfusion heads out there, Prince Po drops in on "No Reason":
"Yo, another +Poseidon Adventure+ with new dimensions
Arrive as the MySpace shuttle with true intentions
The purpose to share the untold truth
Like the cries from the streets to the danger that lies ahead for the youth
No more boys clubs, no after school programs
No more hood love, just small babies havin babies and daytime slow jams
But it's time to shake the curse
And no I'm not willing to wait for the worst"
Throughout "Time and Space" I keep waiting for the hammer to fall, for DJ Cosm to disappoint the listener by doing music that's just "pleasant" without really advancing the craft of hip-hop, but that feeling never comes. The more I play this album the more it seems to me that Cosm may in fact be on the cutting edge rather than trailing behind waiting to be graded on a curve where mediocrity causes all other ships to rise. There's nothing mediocre about this journey through "Time and Space" - it is a refreshing take on what independent hip-hop can be when an excellent producer selects to work with talented rappers and neither one is constrained by hip-hop cliches. "Pleasant listen" does suit DJ Cosm's solo work, but the phrase "polished achievement" suits "Time and Space" even better.
Music Vibes: 8 of 10 Lyric Vibes: 8 of 10 TOTAL Vibes: 8 of 10
Originally posted: April 26th, 2011