Styles of Beyond keep one foot firmly planted in the hip-hop underground, while the other one jets forward into wholly uncharted territory on their debut album 2000 Fold. Despite their sometimes bizarre lyrical flights of fancy, Ryu Maginn and Takbir Bashir opt to maintain the menacing delivery of most hardcore and street MCs, but that does not render the message at odds with the medium. Instead, it fits the idea of the increasingly burdensome millennium that is a primary theme on the album, and the duo's inventiveness does, indeed, move the music forward, challenging hip-hop convention with experimental and wide-ranging lyrical ideas and themes. They still indulge in boastfulness and occasional dark imagery, but it is done in a much more playful (though not at all lighthearted) way and is interspersed among ideas that reach far beyond hardcore posturing. On the suspense mystery "Spies Like Us," the duo spy on hip-hop, plotting and preparing to take it over, while they extend an invitation to alien life forms to come on down and show themselves in "Gollaxowelcome." Musically, Ryu and Takbir maintain a dedication to the foundations of hip-hop by featuring a host of turntablists as part of their soundscape. DJ Revolution, DJ Rhettmatic (of the Beat Junkies) and DJ Cheapshot all supply production and scratching on the album, and 2000 Fold also features production from their most frequent collaborator, Vin Skully, as well as Divine Styler and Bilal Bashir. There is something distinctly sparse and futuristic about the musical underpinning of 2000 Fold, like a hip-hop version of Black Hole. RZA seems to be a primary production influence; bits of film noir strings ("Winnetka Exit") are employed, as are short, eerie piano loops, repeated spaghetti western guitar figures and sharp, metallic-sounding beats. "Muuvon," however, veers much closer to the Daisy Age (a sample of Q-Tip on "Easy Back It Up" solidifies the connection) -- Styles have professed and display an appreciation for that early-'90s mindset -- with cleverly used electro-funk samples and rapid rhyming tradeoffs between Ryu and Takbir. Styles of Beyond may not yet be light years ahead of the rest of the rap industry, but they're not trailing far behind the coattails of, say, Prince Paul or Kool Keith.
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AllMusic Review by Stanton Swihart
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