Published Apr 17, 2015Any competent hip-hop producer can sample a vintage jazz or soul LP and build a sturdy homage to their influences, but L'Orange is one of the few beatsmiths that truly digs deeper. This North Carolinian turntable virtuoso eschews conventional rap samples from the '70s, instead mining obscure vinyl from the '40s and '50s, shifting the tempo of those seemingly wholesome, old-timey notes and adding foreboding hip-hop drums until they have a haunting quality. L'Orange perfected that spooky style on several of his recent releases, but his latest LP, The Night Took Us In Like Family, also has a fresh new dynamic courtesy of Chicago MC Jeremiah Jae. The lyricist's voice bobs and weaves more than a championship fighter, prompting L'Orange to be equally upbeat in a fashion that's long been missing from many of his older, subdued (albeit highly nuanced) tunes.
Case in point: the LP's second track, "Do My Best To Carry On." The song's horns blare in short bursts, like Tommy Guns in an old matinee, complemented by Jae's staccato cadence as he squeezes off one liner bullets that are bound to stop listeners dead in their tracks. Later cut "All I Need" features a strong guest turn from Bay Area legend Gift of Gab, along with a drum line that's brawny enough to knock the fluff out of a punching bag. "Part Two: God Complex" is an instrumental that loops the sound of someone panting, a fitting addition to its breathless bebop horn samples.
Such upbeat songs make the listener long for an entire album's worth of similarly rapid-fire numbers. But The Night is not that album, for better or worse. The aforementioned brisk highlight "Do My Best To Carry On" is, for instance, quickly followed by "Ice Obsidian," yet another track in the L'Orange's repertoire with effectively dark and downcast production, on which Jae deftly rhymes "obsidian," "Gideon" and "meridian" in an ambiguous, gun-smoke hazy lyrical spiel. The next track, "Underworld," is another brooder, opening with evocative, deeply paranoid lyrics from Jae. Midway track "Taken By The Night," is a similarly slow burning song with bubbling tension.
But complaining about L'Orange's mastery — and consistent use — of a distinctly sombre sound is a small gripe. His new LP's quicker numbers may leave one longing for more brisk fare, but The Night's 18 tracks showcase the producer's wide range, even if they lean a bit heavily on slow burners. The upbeat tracks, however, give L'Orange's growing fan base a glimpse of his potential for pulse-pounding hip-hop. Hopefully that will lead to a lean EP bulging with such speedy, aggressive songs.