Published Aug 18, 2009On A Shot in the Dark, Notes to Self manage to walk the line between making an album that pays tribute to a bygone era and lapsing into retro fetishism. Shot in the Dark draws the bulk of its inspiration from hip-hop's late '80s/early '90s Golden Era. The vast majority of beats are built for oversized headphones rather than dance floors. MCs Bronze, Swamp Donkey and Roshin all spit dense, polysyllabic flows that would impress even the most discerning rap snobs. Bronze's production makes ample use of old school soul samples, most notably on "Nobody," a collaboration with Evidence of Dilated Peoples, and "Yellow & Grey," while making sure to leave room for DJ Dopey's sharp cuts. At the same time, Notes don't totally ignore the last decade-and-a-half. They experiment with genre-blending on the riff-rocking "Throw Your (Hands Up)," while the jittery, up-tempo, horn-heavy "Don't Try This at Home" verges on being a club track. By blending classic sounds with modern attitudes, Notes to Self have established themselves as one of the more interesting voices in Canadian hip-hop.
How did you guys hook up with Dilated Peoples?
Bronze: When we originally touched base with them it was through Evidence, and I was fortunate enough to hit it off with him, and we decided that we wanted to get all three of them on a song. It meant so much to us. We looked at the way they've done things: they utilize a DJ live and in the recording. And that seemed really natural to us since we have Dopey in the click. That's something you don't see very much any more: the traditional rap group, with a bunch of rappers and a DJ.
Swamp Donkey: The production is one person, it's all Bronze, the cuts are all Dopey, we all rap, that's what adds to it sounding like a Golden Era hip-hop album. It's that there's a unity you can't escape. It's not that the sampling or the drum patterns are all '90s.
Do you think we're going to see a swing away from the guest producer or the super-producer and back to one producer doing the whole album?
Bronze: I don't think it's something people are cluing into on purpose, like it's a fad. It just kinda make sense, like how we did it in the early '90s. We've come back to that because there isn't lot of money out there. Cats can't afford to buy this, travel across the world to do that. So now what it feels like is not that we've been forced but it's the natural thing to get in the studio [with one producer]. It's a response. (BBE)