Monday, May 15, 2006

2005 FLASHBACK: Felt 2: A Tribute to Lisa Bonet

Hip-hop’s Employees of the Year earn their plaque with this powerful collaboration

(Rhymesayers) Back in the glory days of Marvel comics, the minds behind such legendary heroes as the X-Men and Luke Cage Hero For Hire came up with a quirky new concept: “What if?”

The idea was to let their writers and artists take on such hypothetical questions as “What if Spiderman joined the Fantastic Four?” and “What if the Incredible Hulk had David Banner’s brain?” In the equally obsessed-over world of indie hip-hop, the question “What if Slug, Murs and Ant made a record together?” has been answered with one of the best albums of boom-bap to mark 2005.

It’s common knowledge that Minneapolis’ Slug and LA’s Murs are among the hardest working dudes in hip-hop, always on the grind and practically living on the road. With Felt 2: A Tribute to Lisa Bonet (word to Denise Huxtable), it sounds like they went head to head, pushing one another to step it up and craft sharper rhymes. The results find them firing off a litany of lines back and forth like the Crocket and Tubbs of backpack rap. And yes, Murs is still better than your favorite rapper.

As the dynamic duo are spitting their girl-crazy game (they claim the project is all about “the long-term goal of having sex with b-level Hollywood actresses”), Minneapolis production wunderkind Ant steals the show with a dazzling array of street beats that thump with the ferocity of classic Boogie Down Productions laced with the soulful sheen of ’70s R&B. Veering from orchestrated Minneapolis funk interludes (“Reintroduction,” “Lisa”) to rich, dramatic strings worthy of the Love Unlimited Orchestra (“Your Mans and Them”) to even showing Kanye a thing or three about sped-up soul samples (“Dirty Girl”), this sonic tour de force effectively proves that Ant is among hip-hop’s production elite.

Packed with all sorts of inside jokes and jabs at the insular world of indie rap, Felt 2: A Tribute to Lisa Bonet even has a hilarious accompanying comic book, “True Tales of Underground Hip-Hop).” With new albums from both Atmosphere and Murs in the near future, 2005 is shaping up to be the year we might answer the question “What if Slug, Murs and Ant took over the world?”

(Originally published in Urb, Sept 05)