Muggs / GZA

Grandmasters: Instrumentals

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The reasons for releasing an instrumental album are always a little uncertain. Is it for remix purposes (is everyone hoping for his very own The Grey Album)? To help aspiring rappers practice their delivery? To show off the skills of the producer, which are often overlooked in favor of those of the MCs? For DJ Muggs Grandmasters: Instrumentals, the latter option is most probable, because Muggs is one of the few producers whose work is worthy of an instrumental-only version. He's a master -- no pun intended -- at creating intense, dark beats that rely less on drums and more on guitars, bass, and keys, both sampled and live. It's a pulsing, lurking snake of an album, and it's very much alive, even without the vitality of GZA's lyrics. Muggs keeps most of the vocal clips in the record, so the chess instructions, the musings on hip-hop, the voice samples, are all included, which, although the individual tracks do get a little repetitive within themselves, give the songs a little more direction than "pure" instrumentals would. Because Muggs and GZA work so well together, many of the same ideas that the rapper introduced on the original version can also be felt in the music: the confidence, the intelligence, the violence, and it holds itself up quite well as a record. Like most instrumental-version albums, that of Grandmasters is the kind of a thing that works better in the background (but only for those who want to forgo the fluffy or lighter things and set a dramatic, animated, and sinister mood) as opposed to, well, the foreground. But that's simply because of its strong hypnotic tendencies, and not because the skill of DJ Muggs shouldn't actually be listened to and appreciated.

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