If like me, a Hip Hop tribute to Ghana’s afro-jazz musicians made solely using samples from that vibrant scene sounds like the most exciting the internet has shown you this week; you’re in the right place. This 20 track compilation from indie web-based label and international production collective Hobo Truffles is a chilled listen that’s perfect for simulating some rays of sunshine to get you through Britain’s cold streak right now.
When German producers Shufflejack and Robot Orchestra assembled this band of beat-makers for their take on the Highlife genre, they chose from the world’s foremost aspiring talent; who all soak in the radiant African influence and reinterpret the genre through a Hip-Hop-tinted lens. Over Twenty tracks each man brings his own distinct style, drawing from electronica, much of the modern, more jazz-influenced tones that permeate instrumental hip hop at the moment, that ubiquitous touchstone that the Dilla legacy has become, and the rich indigenous culture that inspired the project. As with Madlib’s Beat Konducta series, the self-imposed genre restriction only serves to make the LP an even more interesting listen. The experimentation and individuality that each track offers has been accomplished with ease and showcases each producers strength; creating an involving musical experience when listened to either as a full album, or randomly on shuffle. Speaking of which, RobotXShuffle’s guitar-driven intro ambles into the ear lazily over subtle electronic elements, setting a calm mood only to have his serenity shattered as GHprodu smashes through the stillness with one of the album’s most raucous highlights; Live The Highlife.
It’s a loud, hotheaded take on the genre that clanks and buzzes with electric elements that boost the quieter guitar melodies and create a sanguine start to the LP. The Edinburgh-born producer’s use of hype vocal samples signal the start of an elated, carefree attitude that prevails throughout much of Ode To Ghana, and his use of repetition makes it one of the albums more enjoyably hook-based numbers.
Ja:Kova’s more subdued, heavily affected artistry swings through with much style and some seriously smooth horn samples on his contribution Muga Yaro; his use of the percussive vocals taking the already heady track above and beyond.
Peet was a name I was unfamiliar with, but after his drum programming on Tribe Chief he’s stormed his way onto my radar, with some hefty tom sounds and vocal samples that snap to the beat. The Munster-based beatmaker has crafted one of this eclectically excellent album’s best tracks, and from the female vocals to the calm, jazzy interlude that leads the song away from it’s animated beginnings towards it’s sombre end, it’s some top-class work. After that head nodder, Ben Bada Boom’s more reserved tones are fitting; his subtle use of key changes mixed with some overt electronic accents and siren-like whoops and hollers are placed with precision, and his feel for when the song needed to change was on point every time, never staying stationary for too long.
Linkrust’s heavy percussion on the vocal-led harmonies of Get It Done Yourself give the song a propulsion that ensures the album shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon, and the French producer’s funky sound layers on organs and electric pianos until your ears are overloaded with enjoyable frequencies; those vocal samples are beautiful touch too. One For Aniki has all the hallmarks of good, solid Hip Hop production with a hefty helping of innovative ideas and challenging creative twists. It’s another intriguing listen from Shuffle Jack. His melody change at the end is one of the coolest things I’ve heard in time, and a definite screwface moment when the beat kicks back in as his more futuristic sound begins to wind down. Mono:Massive brings the grooves with some simple, but effective chops to accent the constant jingling of the background percussion, and his compact style gives the track a more glossy, polished feel than some of the tribute’s rawer numbers.
Switzerland’s Melodiesinfonie brings another album-defining moment on his laidback effort entitled Africaspirit. It’s a song that warps continuously throughout it’s three minute incarnation, giving you much to play with mentally and some all-important breathing room, as you sink into the ambient atmosphere the producer brings. The man known as Robot Orchestra has been making some nice instrumental albums for a while now, his 2012 album Beat The Odds was one of my favourite instrumental Hip Hop releases of that year, so I wasn’t surprised in the slightest when Talking Drum was another smash from the producer; his catchy take on the vocal chants of the Ghanian people is genius in it’s deft simplicity, all the while laying down some real nice smooth samples that shift with the melody, making the song another masterclass in cool, calm production from one of the genre’s leading lights. Soulpete slightly hits off target on Project Ghana, due to a pretty lacklustre song title and some intrusive, shrill notes that are more of an unsettling preoccupation than they are an understated accompaniment. The song does have some great drum sounds and hi hat work though, and the tom rolls are a nice addition. KommerzKlaus ‘s jittery, technological bounce brings an unexpected air of claustrophobia to the album’s otherwise calm mood, and leaves you uneasily apprehensive of where the tribute will take you next after his slick robotic detour has run it’s course.
Mellowness resumes on Accra By Night; as Denmark native J.Vibes lives up to his namesake and soothes the soul with nothing but smoked-out stoner steez. His hazy, track creeps slowly to life, as brass instruments coagulate with electric P Funk melody, growing more potent as it progresses, like those brownies you ate before you found yourself staring at your thumbs for three hours. As Ghanaway gets underway, Sterio’s minimal additions allow the track to form a lasting impression in your mind and benefits from some nice upfront organ stabs to carry the slightly weak guitar sample. Boost Phillis takes a similarly chilled approach on Gemini, leaving out the technicalities and focusing on building a few nice sections, his ear for percussion is acutely tuned and all sort of bells, and tin cans jangle with an energy that effortlessly lifts the rising vocal lines even higher. Saint Rock selects some choice samples that present a more lively attack than the previous few tracks, with some nice sounding production that only suffers due to it’s brevity. His exciting style on What You Ghana Do With That Thing makes him another name to look out for in the next year. Thankfully for us, Maloon TheBoom chooses his samples better than he chooses moniker;, and gets your ass moving with his colorful trumpet lines and shaker combos on Love For Ghana Music, before Road 2 Accra slips the sounds effortlessly back into calmer waters again; Austria’s Nomad leaving his subtle fingerprints on the culture with a neat, clean song that stacks samples together tighter than the monoliths at Sacsayhuaman.
On Tanya, Sev Seveer stands out for his bold style. Intertwining engaging samples from old blaxploitation flicks and rap lines with wah guitar licks that switch up the whole style of the album as it reaches it’s conclusion. A style that French producer Keor Meteor continues on his violent kung-fu, lounge-piano-mash-up. It’s an ambitious project that is brought to life with as much vigour and tenacity as the original music the collective have taken influence from; making for a dynamic journey through sound that will leave you wanting to rewind to catch the subtleties and nuances buried in each track. Much respect to everyone involved for creating an interesting and exciting listen that treats the source material with respect, and crafts some fresh ideas to breathe new life into instrumental Hip Hop as we begin this new year.
Get the whole album for free here.