Five Fingers of Funk

About Time

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If you asked a hip-hop expert what the main differences between East Coast and West Coast rap were in the late '80s and '90s, you would have likely heard the following generalization: West Coast rappers were about beats and messages, while the East Coast was about rapping technique, flow, and rhyming style. There is some truth to that generalization, but like other generalizations, that East Coast/West Coast scenario was a case of patterns and trends rather than hard rules that could never be bent or broken -- the problem with musical generalizations is that there are usually a lot of exceptions that have to be taken into account. Because they favored a jazzy alternative rap sound and made rhyming technique a high priority, Five Fingers of Funk were usually compared to New York and Philadelphia artists in the '90s. But Pete Miser's group was from Portland, OR, and there isn't the slightest hint of gangsta rap or G-funk on About Time -- this 1998 release brings to mind Gang Starr, A Tribe Called Quest, and the Jungle Brothers, not Snoop Dogg or Warren G. While there are some parallels between About Time and Miser's solo output, the two are not identical. Fingers have the strong Native Tongues influence that Miser's solo recordings are known for, but with a less produced sound and punchy horn arrangements that owe a lot to '70s funk. About Time, you see, is the work of a hip-hop band -- not just a group, but a real band with trumpet, sax, trombone, electric bass, percussion, and real drums (as opposed to simply drum machines). Miser's rapping and DJ Chill's turntable work are surrounded by live instruments, and that separates About Time from most of 1998's hip-hop efforts. Alt-rap enthusiasts are advised to give this CD a close listen.

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