Indie rock often sounds purposefully sloppy, boasting a loose, rumpled vibe that suits the inspired amateurism of many bands. Hip-hop, on the other hand, demands a certain precision, as MCs need a steady pulse to hold their rhymes in place, which is fortunate since the samplers and drum machines most producers favor bring a digital certainty to their tracks. So what would happen if you built a hip-hop album around samples from the catalog of K Records, purveyors of notoriously human and imprecise "love rock" acts following the example of label founder Calvin Johnson? Believe it or not, it would turn out pretty well, judging from All Your Friend's Friends, an anthology put together by the Pacific Northwest hip-hop collective Thee Xntrx, with beat master Smoke M2D6 building all the tracks from songs in the K Records archive. Of course, Smoke M2D6 has added plenty of drum loops and bass to these tracks, so while the building blocks of the original songs are often visible, this stuff doesn't sound like folks simply rapping over, say, the Halo Benders. Instead, these tracks feel cool and muscular, letting the organic sounds of the original recordings give shape and color to the electronics. And thankfully, Thee Xntrx have brought in some distinctive MCs to rhyme over Smoke M2D6's beats, and the high points suggest the Overcast Empire's hip-hop scene is as idiosyncratic and memorable as the underground rock community. In addition to members of Thee Xntrx, the rappers include associates of Northwest crews Oldominion and Sandpeople, and with a few rare exceptions, the verses are thoughtful and witty, often incorporating a political or social subtext while boasting plentiful street cred, and the quality of the flow is impressive (though "Pizza Chef" from Free Whiskey shows not everyone on board is a genius). What could have been a clumsy lo-fi variation on the Judgment Night original soundtrack instead turns out to be an interesting and genuinely satisfying collision of two distant but related independent cultures, and if you're interested in the more original sides of either indie rock or alternative rap, this is more than worth your attention.
AllMusic Review by Mark Deming