Ra flexes his instrumental muscles on new EP
In Hip-Hop there are two schools of thought. Actually there are probably more, but for now let’s keep things simple. One school is that the rapper/MC is the most important and the other is that the producer/beat maker is. Personally I’ve always listened to the music first and the lyrics second. Don’t get me wrong I love a good lyricist. Slick Rick’s Mistakes of a Woman in Love With Other Men was one of the first songs that I heard as an impressionable youth and his skill of not only storytelling, but of dissecting a moment so that you were able to tell what the wall paper was like impressed the pre-teen me. But songs like Snoop Doddy Dogg-Pump Pump, Public Enemy-Shut Em’ Down, Resident Alien-Ooh the Dew Doo Man and Method Man-Tical drew me in with the music first.
Things have changed a lot since my childhood, but somethings haven’t. Good beats are always good beats. One of the best beat makers was the late J Dilla. His solo work and productions for others were flawless and sublime. Sadly since his passing many have come close to taking his empty throne, but no one has. One producer who is making the right noises is Ra, and his EP Slow in the Fast Lane.
Consisting of only seven song and lasting sixteen minutes, Slow in the Fast Lane showcases Ra’s deft production and an ear not only for melody, but for what’s currently going on in Hip-Hop. Kambu Chill kicks things off with a slight RZA vibe. In under two minutes it does the job of whetting your appetite for the rest of the EP, without laying down a gauntlet that can’t be followed up, or bettered. But it’s on Lil’ Showty where things get ramped up a notch. A slow jazz sample is the lynch pin to the whole thing. Through its lazy and hazy horns and piano you are transported back to a speakeasy, but the popping beats reminds you that you are alive in 2016 and anything is possible, musically speaking. Yes it does remind us of DJ Yoda’s How to Cut and Paste: Thirties Edition, but that’s not a bad thing?
Sweet Chick takes RZA’s slow piano blueprint and updates it with slightly glitchy beats and synths. It’s this ability to understand what made something work and re-imagine for now that makes Ra and exciting talent. Feind’n jumps forward and adds vocals. This is great as there is a change to texture and tone. Feind’n is the hardest on the EP, which again shows that Ra can make beats laden with malice and aggression as well as Neo-Daisy age classics. Loves in Need closes the EP with a soul/gospel-esque vibe. Next to Lil Showty its one of the strongest tracks on the display. Its simple use of faders and vocal refrains mean that it easily gets stuck in your head!
Basically Slow in the Fast Lane is a show reel. On it Ra is showing what he can do. “You want something fast. Done. You want something fun. Done. You want something poignant. Done”. Despite its length, Slow in the Fast Lane is one of the most complete and concise releases of the year so far. Through subtle production and exquisite use of samples Ra takes us not only on a journey through his collective influences, but through Hip-Hop’s past and, hopefully, its future.