If the new A Tribe Called Quest record has reignited your fire for new sounds straight out of rap’s golden age you could do a lot worse than A Mobtown Suite. The Dilla and Jay Rock comparisons are obvious, but the subtly evolving live instrumentation gives these 17 instrumentals consistent interest that sets them apart from the beat-tapers and nudges them into the space occupied by BadBadNotGood when they worked with Ghostface Killah. The Roots stalk ‘citycide’ and ‘MurdaUS’; ‘Mahatma and the White Devil’ recalls Madlib’s best excursions into Bollywood.
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Pretty much any half decent hip-hop producer who has a way with a stoned beat and adds a stutter to a loop gets comparisons with Dilla. It is simultaneously a tribute to the lasting legacy of James Yancey who passed over a decade ago now; a poor reflection on genre that someone who passed over a decade ago is still seen as ahead of the game and also quite likely to be lazy writing by reviewers. So I'm glad I didn't fall into that trap.
What struck me about Mahatma X's album though wasn't similarity with Dilla's work - rather, I was constantly taken back to when I first listened to DJ Shadow's Endtroducing. The way 'A Mobtown Suite' marries dusty grooves and stoned beats with an emotive series of moods suggests that there is a real musical talent at work here. From sun-drenched guitar licks matched to a killer bass line on 'citycyde' to the plaintive and melancholic 'Gloriaaa' this is more than a beat tape for the head-nodders. Whilst the short running time of each track means that there perhaps isn't a particular standout, this shouldn't be seen as a weakness, more a reflection on the coherence of the whole. This is a record to listen to in its entirety.
If we are going to make comparisons with more contemporary artists than the mid-90's era Shadow, then for me producers like Tall Black Guy and Eric Lau are treading a similar path to Mahatma X. Tracks like 'Bright Moments' could have appeared on TBG's highly collectable '8 Miles To Moenart'. Drawing in sounds and influences from a global sonic palette and filtering it through a hazy hip-hop filter, this is music that takes you to a more cosmic plain than you get with mainstream hip hop. Elements of jazz, and far eastern sounds are blended with lazy funk beats, sundowner guitar refrains and spacey synths over these 17 tracks.
Those that dug the Knxwledge album on Stones Throw will love this, 'Mahatma and the White Devil' and 'His Name Is B' are a match for the most head snapping tracks on 'Hud Dreams'. However, whilst this is a hip-hop album, I don't think it is something that should appeal only to hip-hop heads. A new wave of exciting producers are delivering some incredible music at the moment; throwing jazz, broken beat, deep house, world music, hip-hop, soul and funk into a melting pot.
Mahatma X I feel should be considered alongside the likes of Tenderlonious, Jeen Bassa, Yussef Kamaal and Kaidi Tatham and are certainly an act to watch - 'A Mobtown Suite Volume 2' is already on my wants list - they just need to make it.
8/10 Steve 21st December 2017
A dusty offering reminiscent of 'donuts' . Tracks morph and compliment each other and you could bake a cake as much bake your head as the mood unfolds. A record to keep returning to as there is also something new to discover
8/10 Dan 3rd March 2017
Solid leftfield beatwork. For fans of Dilla, Shlomo, Madlib etc!
9/10 Harold Kent 11th February 2017
So it's a Saturday afternoon and I've got people on the radio going on about what constitutes a child refugee. Depressingly, quite a few callers will only accept a child looks like a child if they are built in the image of Bonnie Langford, Lena Zavaroni or that little lad out of 'George and Mildred'. They don't want anyone over 5 foot and they don't want any bum fluff (taches or beards). Then it's onto Trump's America, which if he gets his way, may look like a cross between 'They Live' and 'Escape from New York'.
Just then, the postman delivers 'A Mobtown Suite Vol 1', and within a few seconds of the needle hitting the record, i'm transported from mass panic in the year zero to the diverse, laid back (nay horizontal), world of Hip Hop, Soul, Funk and lovely, lovely beats. It's put a smile on my face on a wet February weekend and is a real find, these are quality tunes.
It's a big thank you to Home Assembly (and Norman), for bringing Mahatma X to our attention. In the words of Harold Shand 'Hands Across the Ocean', Philly to Saltaire.
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