November 11, 2004

By Canyon Cody
Published in The Heights

Live instrumental hip-hop tends to have its heart in the right place but falters in its presentation. It often seems like the emcee's lyrics are struggling to be heard above the band's accompaniment. Unfortunately, in order to avoid this problem, live hip-hop musicians often attempt to replicate the looped-sound of traditionally produced beats. The Roots, the most famous live hip-hop band, are notoriously guilty of both.

The three musicians and two emcees in Hieruspecs are perfect examples of how rappers and musicians can collaborate to create a progressive musically-based hip-hop album.

The crew hails from St. Paul, where it earned a reputation opening for fellow Minnestota-native Atmosphere. Who would expect Minneapolis to produce so much great hip-hop?

As a whole, the group's newest album, A Tiger Dancing, is the most enjoyable live instrument hip-hop albums of all time. Unlike groups like The Roots, Heiruspecs avoids the distracting musical wanderings typical of overly talented musicians. They seem more interested in entertaining the listener than impressing the critics.

As a result the album is listenable from beginning to end, with standout tracks including "Swearsong," where emcee Muad'Dib shows off his syllabic gymnastics, "5ves," where the live drums hit noticeably harder than your typical computer-programmed beats, and the beautifully romantic "Heartstrings," where emcee Felix shines as a subtle, poignant poet.

No comments: