Lawson Graham

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If you're a good hip-hop producer -- and Factor is among the best Canada has to offer -- you end up amassing lots of IOUs. On Lawson Graham (a musical tribute to his grandfather, after whom the album is named) he seems to have called in virtually every one of them. There are appearances from singers, rappers, and DJs as diverse as Gregory Pepper, Sole, Pigeon John, Def3, Moka Only, and Ceschi, but the music is only hip-hop in the broadest sense. There are lots of funky breakbeats and there is plenty of rapping in a variety of styles, but the overall feel is more indie pop or even folk-rock than hip-hop. The lyrics are emotionally open, the melodies startlingly engaging, and the textures wildly varied. On "Every Morning," for example, multi-instrumentalist Tom Filepp (aka Cars & Trains) contributes spare beats, guitars, and what sounds like a Mellotron to create a softly funky masterpiece, while "Oh Oh Andy" (featuring Nomad) creates what can only be described as a 1960s girl group vibe through which is woven the sound of an expertly played jazz flute. "Ain't Nothin' Gonna Change" (featuring Barfly and Heresy Mae) nicely juxtaposes rock and rap, while "Missed the Train" (with Gregory Pepper) is both melodically lovely and restrainedly funky and quotes from Peter, Paul and Mary's "500 Miles." It's no longer considered an oxymoron to talk about artful hip-hop, but Lawson Graham represents something more than just another well-crafted excursion into stylistically sophisticated rap: it's emotionally sophisticated rap, and that really is quite unusual.

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