Mike Ladd

Welcome to the Afterfuture

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After a decade of underground recognition, New York-based producer/lyricist Mike Ladd has emerged since 1998 as the hip-hop scene's prime genius. Easy Listening 4 Armageddon put him on the map, the all-star Infesticons album put him over, and Welcome to the Afterfuture is the articulation of a musical vision. Whether it will pan out in the real future is another matter, but at least it stands a chance. Welcome to the Afterfuture is a blender of sounds and styles and epitomizes the search that is leading cutting-edge hip-hop further into avant-garde and non-Western musical traditions. "Airwave Hysteria" has a sweet Bollywood sample with a tight chorus broken up by some hypnotic scratching. The ring mod and time-stretched vocals on "Planet 10" are reminiscent of a Kid 606 album. There's a number of good tracks, but a few stand out, particularly "5000 Miles," where Ladd gets to display his lyrical skills ("I'm 5000 miles west/Of my future/Where's my floating car/My utopia") against fuzzed bass and organ figures. He gets props for entering the sci-fi realm without sounding like another Kool Keith carbon, although you might argue that it's simply more futurist than sci-fi per se. The most out track is "I Feel Like 100 Dollars"; it would be difficult to create more chaos at a slower tempo, for sure. There's some nice Air-esque jamming on "To the Moon's Contractor," and the title track features a crunked funk dissection of contemporary ills via Nova Express. Not so successful is the cut "No. 1 St.," which falls into all the pitfalls of trying too hard, with self-important rhyming. It's not often that album reviews name check Ezra Pound, Mogwai, and Run-D.M.C., so buy this album. If hip-hop should have a tradition, then this is it -- experimentation.

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