Shane BarnhillWednesday,27 February 2013

The Snap:

Earlier this month, rapper Kool A.D. released two mixtapes, 19 and 63. The mixtapes –like last year’s 51 — are named after bus routes in the Bay Area, and feature a variety of artists who were eager to collaborate with the former Das Racist member. I’ve been listening to the two mixtapes (okay, let’s just call them “albums” going forward) almost nonstop at work lately. And yes, by “nonstop” I mean those rare moments of each day that aren’t crammed full of meetings.

The Download:

Both albums are very, very good. But of the two, I prefer 19. Perhaps it taps into a little more of the combination of intelligence and silliness that characterized Das Racist’s work. Especially the silliness.

In fact, I’ve taken to referring to 19 as “The Justin Bieber Drinking Game Album.” Kool A.D. and his collaborators toss so many shout-outs to Bieber on 19 that even hard core alcoholics would be full-on crunked within the first sixty seconds of “Eroika,” the second song on the album. Just how crunked? Try 16 mentions of Bieber within the first minute.

And the sixth song, “Beautiful Naked Psychedelic Exploding Gherkin Tomato Sauce All Over UR Face, Flame Grilled Painting,” has six Bieber references within the first 30 seconds (plus, the name of the song is indicative of the WTF nature of Kool A.D.’s work). And don’t even get me started on the techno-inspired “Jenny Holzer.” I simply had to stop counting mentions of The Biebs.

The repetition of Bieber references does make some of the songs on 19 feel as if they were slapped together off the cuff. But that’s part of the album’s charm, and moreover, it reflects Kool A.D.’s preferred approach toward music production, which he sums up for Fader:

“That type of collaboration doesn’t take much, you just do your little part. A pretty fill-in-the-blanks kind of thing… I like that sort of I do my thing, you do your thing way of doing things. There’s something real low pressure, where everyone’s relaxed and doing their own thing almost by accident or this happenstance shit, and then you listen to it as a document of that.”

But you know what?

The approach works. The whole album is enjoyable, especially for a cubicle-dweller who just needs a good beat and some lightweight lyrics in the background to help push a project across the finish line. But don’t take it from a guy who couldn’t name ten other rap acts if he tried. Instead, download 19 (and also 63) by naming your own price — yes, $0.00 is an option — on Bandcamp. To preview some of the best tunes from 19, check out the embeds below.

Hat Tips:

Pitchfork, Fader, Stereogum, Image Credit: Flickr

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