Monday, September 9, 2013

The Roots And Elvis Costello Make Beautiful Music Together

You know The Roots, right? That pretty stellar hip-hop group with a unique sound because, for the most part, all the instruments are live (they've done a few more standard rap songs and use a lot of keyboards, so it's "for the most part.") ?uestlove is a pretty well known face for hip-hop and is often brought in for documentaries like The Otherside or basically as a representative of the more intellectual, nuanced side of the genre.

Well, indie rock pioneer Elvis Costello and ?uestlove's band are getting together - the product is the album Wise Up Ghost. Admittedly the first single, which has been promoted alot on YouTube and other sites, "Walk Us Uptown," was a bit disappointing - it sounded too standard and too much like the work that Costello was already doing. The whole point of a collaboration like this would be to meld the two different creative worlds of Costello and ?uestlove and that song didn't do it.

It's a good thing that song didn't represent the whole package. Some of the music is simply incredible. If for some reason you're only able to listen to one track from the entire album from Wise Up Ghost, listen to "Come the Meantimes." ?uestlove really pioneered on this song - alot of the staples of modern hip-hop are there - the high hats, claps and loops that would be uneventful in a standard rap track suddenly just sound ridiculous underneath the smooth crooning of Elvis Costello.

The only complaint I have here is that the synergy between the hip-hop world and the indie rock of Elvis Costello is too mild. It would have been good if rapper Black Thought, who has been on every single other Roots album produced, would have appeared - even on just one track. I don't think it would be awkward - songs like "The Seed 2.0" had Black Thought rapping with a pretty healthy chorus by a R&B singer Cody Chesnutt.

That's really the only imperfection though. Elvis Costello is 59 years old. ?uestlove is 42. Hip-hop did already exist when Costello started in popular music but it certainly hadn't developed to the point it has now. Costello not only stepped over the Generation Gap but poured concrete in to it with this album - few artists at this point in his career maintain their old creative energy. Costello actually has sparked new creative energy. Brilliance.

You can listen to the whole thing on NPR. Make sure that you use headphones or speakers with strong bass. The bass is easily one of the best features of the whole album.

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