Fat Jon

The Same Channel

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For his solo records, Fat Jon has mostly concerned himself with making instrumental downtempo music, though his production for artists like Talib Kweli and Rakim, as well as his own work (both as MC and producer) with his groups Five Deez and 3582 showed his capabilities in the hip-hop world. On his latest effort, this time with Belgian producer/musician/vocalist Arne VanPetegem, better known as Styrofoam, Fat Jon marries the two genres, and the result, The Same Channel, is an indie-electronica/hip-hop album that should thrill backpackers who are tired of soul- and funk-based beats and are looking for something fractured and galactic with that sad mechanicality that is a necessary element of any Morr Music release. Actually, The Same Channel ends up sounding a lot like 13 & God's self-titled record, minus Doseone's nasally vocals (a welcome subtraction, in fact), with subtle, muted drums and purposeful synths and guitars playing their chords hesitantly. Fat Jon seems to have taken his cues from the returned Dr. Octagon, both musically and lyrically, rapping about extraterrestrial thugs and women, though he's a lot more introspective and less bizarre than Kool Keith, and Styrofoam's sad indie-boy vocals give the album an overall feeling of near hopelessness, an exception being the space-age G-funk of "Scream It Out," the one track that might work in a club. It all comes together seamlessly, though, painting images of post-industrial desolation and loneliness, of lives in which melancholy is always there, like the dark clouds and concrete that assuredly surrounds them. Beeping, quirky arpeggios bump into electronic drums and turn into stuttering beats that wind around the words detachedly, too metallic to sympathize. But because of Fat Jon and Styrofoam's personal, thoughtful lyrics, there's an element of humanness to their music that makes The Same Channel very appealing, and not at all cold, that combination of steel and honest reflection controlling the pace of the album more than either of the musicians' programmed computers, all of which means it's very hard not to be drawn into what they've accomplished. If this is what the future looks like, it might not end up being such a bad place after all.

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