Giant Panda Fly School Reunion

This Los Angeles trio are one of those refreshing but rare hip-hop acts that contain the same heart and creativity as the golden era possessed but have the sense to advance their sound rather than coming off as a wack throwback, though that statement does come back to haunt them with an ode to a ’90s song that is actually just A Tribe Called Quest remixed. The beats on Giant Panda’s debut are pretty fresh and the obvious asset to this crew thanks to Pandas Newman and Chikaramanga (who raps in Japanese) on production, ranging from jazzy but hard-hitting thumpers to multi-layered foot movers with dashes of atmospheric electronics that fit so well with Giant Pandas flows. Label boss Thes One can’t help but give these kids a run for their money with one of Fly School Reunion’s great beat moments as Thes drops a scorcher with "Super Fly,” a departure from that People Under the Stairs sound that is somewhat reminiscent of Art of Noise’s "Close to the Edit.” Giant Panda definitely have something here that sounds mighty healthy already after a few years on the map, but you can just hear the signs of growth in the grooves of this record, and have probably improved their sound even more as you read this. Keep a close eye on these cats. (Bad Reputation)