Shawn Lee

Golden Age Against the Machine

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Following his soundtrack to the video game Zombie Playground, Shawn Lee changes gear with Golden Age Against the Machine, a playful and lively tribute to the golden age of rap. Lee sees the era as one that goes as far back as the early '80s and extends to the early '90s. Rather than incorporate samples -- or even his own early-2000s Ape Breaks releases, which were seemingly designed to be reused for projects like this -- Lee goes with live instrumentation. A handful of associates assist with horns, reeds, and woodwinds, as well as rhymes -- the best of which are delivered by Ohmega Watts on "We Got the Jazz." Lee handles everything else. Even without the use of breaks, Lee and company can't help but throw in direct references, whether it's a nod to Tom Browne's hip-hop-inspired jazz-funk gem "Funkin' for Jamaica" in the opening "Forward to the Past," or the bassline of Newcleus' electro classic "Jam on It" in "Back to the Future," where MC ThinkTank fires off Liquid Liquid and Grandmaster Flash quotes. The album is so nostalgic and reverent that replays are less likely than trawls through the source material that inspired it, but Lee's work here displays as much knowledge of (and love for) his subject as any expert-level DJ set.

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