Friday, July 21, 2006

can cut chemist save "turntablism?"

Today, I received a copy of the new Cut Chemist solo album, "The Audience Is Listening." Many people who are familiar with mainstream hip-hop know Cut Chemist (nee: Lucas McFadden) as one of two DJs for Jurassic 5 (Nu-Mark is the other), and people who are hippies may know him from the earliest incarnation of Ozomatli.

Outside of those groups, however, the Cut has a particularly high profile: his Brainfreeze and Product Placement collaborations with DJ Shadow (live performances that emphasized funk and garage rock 7 inches, respectively), his production and remix contributions for several elite artists (Ugly Duckling, Jem), his expansive knowledge of rare breaks, and let's not forget his legendary performance at Future Primitive with DJ Shortkut.

What's interesting about Cut Chemist's solo release is that it's Warner Brothers' second "turntablist" release in the year and a half (Z-Trip's "Shifting Gears" was the last one) and if Z-Trip's record sales were any indication, then the suits should expect this record to brick. Bad.

Then again, the main problem with Z-Trip's album (as well as the last two X-Ecutioners albums) was the decision to make it less about DJing and more about the rapping, plus all parties involved had someone from Linkin Park guest on their records. Cut Chemist has taken on a different approach, inviting lesser known rappers to guest on a few track and focusing more on the instrumental and scratch aspect.

While "The Audience Is Listening" is less fleshed out than DJ Shadow's "Endtroducing" and less bombastic than Triple Threat DJs' "Many Styles," it's still an easier listen than Z-Trip's album. There's less going on in terms of "musical diversity." Cut Chemist basically made the kind of mixtape that would've been huge six years ago and I can't get mad at the guy for it.

I would imagine the people who used have a boner for the term "turntablism" listening to this album and really, really enjoying it. So much in fact that perhaps they may take up the turntables again. Maybe.


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