Originally published in XLR8R Spring 2005
Instead of cramming jazz into hip-hop‘s beats, Ladd lets hip-hop spill out in a manner that would make Ornette Coleman and other pursuers of freedom proud. Name dropping Duchamp and Malinowski, he isn‘t trying to be clever, just not interested in dumbing it down. A bevy of instrumental tracks allow the talented live band to work their chops. On “Back at Ya,” a duck-walking oboe riff is backed by what sounds like Tony Allen in a garage punk band: ominous, sad, sarcastic, and smart. Most of these tracks aren‘t exactly crowd pleasers, instead Ladd has carved out an unusual and consistent album.
MF Doom speaks the truth when he says, “This beat is strictly retarded, yo/sound like it came off the late Ricky Ricardo show.” Daedelus gets a lot of mileage from the contrast between his fly beats and string-soaked samples from old TV soundtracks and public domain 78s. Mike Ladd guests, describing the forlorn smell of Taco Bell as experienced by an expat returning to the US, and Jogger‘s remix has pants-wettingly good synths. Exquisite Corpse is a concept album about death: it isn‘t a showtune about getting gunned down in Vegas, gangsta-style, but more like a lullaby for dying in your sleep.
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