Big Chief

Mack Avenue Skullgame

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Right now, somewhere in Germany, a young mensch is scouring the walls of his favorite cult video emporium, squinting his eyes to catch the spine of the elusive Detroit B-movie from the early '90s called Mack Avenue Skullgame. Big Chief delivered its finest work with its like-named soundtrack for the non-film, a conceptual hoax that pays tribute to the Blaxploitation soundtracks of the '70s while fusing that sound with the band's rock foundations. It sounds like a gimmick, but it's not a gimmick in the manner of a white person donning an Afro. It only seems like a gimmick because the influence of Blaxploitation flicks wasn't so common at the time. Save for the Beastie Boys, hardly any non-black acts were adopting such a stance as a means of embracing and acknowledging black culture. While later outfits would use this as a ploy for cuteness and attention, Big Chief was doing it out of pure admiration. Prior to recording the album, the band was determined not to be classified as a run-of-the-mill guitar band. The climate was just about to split open for the faceless and fashionable post-grunge outfits, so the move ultimately ended up being a wise and rather prophetic move. Since Big Chief's listening habits and influences shot through the spectrums of rock, funk, and jazz, it wasn't such a hard concept to translate from brain to wax. Freeing the band up led to a loose and tight record -- loose because it sounds like a big party, and tight because there aren't any dull moments. So take the Beastie Boys' Check Your Head or Ill Communication and replace the rapping with more funk and soul. Make either of those records more cohesive, form it into a song cycle, and you have Mack Avenue Skullgame.

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