Josh Martinez

Midriff Music

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The most immediately striking thing about Midriff Music is the oddly placid settings for Josh Martinez's high-octane raps. Though Martinez has a tough, at times aggressive verbal style, these 11 songs are built on mellow mid-tempo beats, acoustic guitars, flutes, piano, clavinet, and other touchstones of the softer side of '70s rock and R&B. This tension between the laid-back music and Martinez's kinetic raps makes Midriff Music an intriguing listen, particularly on those songs on which Martinez is at his most strident, like "Played Out," a fierce duet with Kunga 219. However, most of the credit for the album probably goes to producer Samix, who not only created the settings, but also gets three lengthy solo instrumental showcases all to himself. Rather than being simply brief interludes between the actual songs, these are fully formed songs built around soulful melodies and intricate, detailed arrangements, which are every bit as good as Martinez's vocal turns. Unusual for producers, Samix gets front-cover billing just under Martinez, and he deserves it.

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