Prefuse 73 Vocal Studies + Uprock Narratives

Sometimes a hip-hop record is released that is so advanced that it can be easily placed in multiple genres. Vocal Studies has all the elements of a hip-hop offering - razor-sharp-tongued MCs in former KMD member MF Doom and Aesop Rock - and also delivers fresh beats by the truckload. Yet the way Prefuse 73 mastermind Scott Herren (Delarosa & Asora) pieces together the final product is not exactly what the hip-hop world is used to hearing. He uses many abstract elements and samples that make Vocal Studies a truly remarkable and creative record. "Smile in Your Face" is a good example of how Herren takes an unbelievably brilliant beat and then cuts it up into pieces and brings it off-tempo for massive amounts of variety. The tracks never seem to be straightforward and that's the main reason this album is so rewarding to listen to: it's never predictable. Even when Herren's nestled into a lovely hook or groove he'll flip it into another mode, yet without fail he always equals or betters the previous break. As well as some huge hip-hop beats there are many moments of down-tempo bliss like "Afternoon Love-In," a romantic and gorgeous number highlighted by a woman's haunting whisperings. There seem to be so many elements and noises thrown into the mix yet it never seems to come across as choppy or sloppy. That in itself is a remarkable feat. (Warp)