New Album by Hartford Rapper Tone Benjaminz More Than Just Talk
November 08, 2011
Instrumental hip-hop seems like a contradiction in terms, given the genre's emphasis on lyrical wordplay and deft rhymes. Tone Benjaminz thought it was worth a try anyway.
Having already demonstrated smooth flow and strong lyricism on his 2009 album "Same Game, No Pressure," the Hartford rapper steps back from the mic to highlight his skill as a producer on "needamoment," a recent collection of instrumental tracks mixing samples with his own compositions. (Hear both albums at tonebenjaminz.bandcamp.com.)
It's a familiar role: not only did Benjaminz (under a different name) craft the beats for the short-lived local rap trio Official Big League, he built hook-heavy musical arrangements for the songs on "Same Game, No Pressure," too.
With no vocals for cover on "needamoment," Benjaminz needed tracks fully realized enough to stand on their own. No problem: a speeded-up sample anchors "For You" over grainy guitar and a heavy, thumping beat; and a sugary, giggling synthesizer line powers "And the Horsey You Rode in On."
Many of the tunes have a soul/funk tilt, but Benjaminz isn't afraid to experiment, either. Effects-treated horns slip and slide over a swinging rhythm on "Ragtime," and the echoing, psychedelic synthesizer and distant, imposing strings on "Been a Minute" sound like something the Flaming Lips should have used in their bizarro holiday movie "Christmas on Mars."
Any one of these 17 tunes would make a first-rate backing track for a skilled MC, but that's only part of why "needamoment" succeeds. The album is also a testament to Benjaminz's feel for the game, and his understanding that strong lyrics benefit from smart musical arrangements, lest they become just a lot of talk.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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