Mike Ladd

Easy Listening 4 Armageddon

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Gil Scott-Heron's name is tossed around every time some young hip-hopper aspires beyond the usual rhymes, but for all the invocations, there have been precious few rhymers worthy of carrying on his poetic legacy. One who is, however, is Mike Ladd, who offered an auspicious debut with Easy Listening 4 Armegeddon. Ladd makes comparison with Scott-Heron sensible in large part due to his lyrics, which don't forget the humor ("I'm Building a Bodacious Bodega for the Race War") even as they tackle serious aspects of racism and politics. But Ladd remembers something else that many would-be poets who followed Scott-Heron have forgotten: as compelling and evocative as his words can be, it's the music that gives them their staying power. And through a series of lo-fi beats and loops that make stunning use of a few choice samples, Ladd creates an eerie soundscape that perfectly matches his muttered musings. From the twilight jazz of "The Tragic Mulatto Is Neither" and "Bush League Junkie" to the alt-rock-flavored "Kissin' Kecia" to the stark, hypnotic backdrop of Ladd's seven-minute take on "Blade Runner," the tunes would be worth hearing on their own merits. In tandem with Ladd's poetry, the resulting hybrid is superb.

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