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Negrophilia - The Album

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Album Review

This characteristically conceptual and adventurous album from Mike Ladd isn't exactly Negrophilia — Petrine Archer-Straw's book that deals with Parisiens' fascination with black culture during the 1920s — brought off the page and placed onto wax. The book is more of a jump-off point than anything else. Its ideas are referenced, examined, messed with, expanded upon, and dusted off to make natural modern-day parallels. Ladd's lyrics are only sprinkled throughout, often conjuring striking images that tie the themes of Archer-Straw's writings to the present: "Brancusi sculpting Beyoncé in gold lamé/Blonde negress"; "Boxing in Montmartre/Disco with a Hottentot"; "Every day the land we lay looks more and more like L.A./From Dakar to Harare/Bangkok to Taipei." Ladd takes greater liberties with the instrumentation, provided by key collaborator Vijay Iyer (keys), Guillermo E. Brown (drums, electronics), Bruce Grant (tape loops), Andrew Lamb (winds), and his niece Marguerite (winds). The playing is considerably transformed by his chop-ups. Sizeable seams in the interwoven fragments are audible, but not to the point where it all seems disjointed just to be unnervingly difficult. On "Blonde Negress," clipped brass notes are spit out like poison darts, only to be deflected off a rubbery drum loop and juiced-up synth interjections. "In Perspective" is relatively laid-back, the closest the album gets to carrying a standard groove, but it remains ill at ease with faint atmospheric gauze and bracing audio-collage samples from what sounds like news broadcasts and documentaries ("... the police came and beat him half to death and gouged his eyes out"). This is one of Ladd's most accomplished albums to date, proving once again that he's one of the most forward-thinking artists around. He doesn't always come up with genius-level work, but his output is consistently fascinating, worthy of both deep analysis and a deeply felt physical reaction.


Born: Cambridge, MA

Genre: Hip-Hop/Rap

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s

Mike Ladd is an iconoclast hip-hop figure, a producer with studio smarts and an intelligent MC as well, but a man with a wide-ranging set of aims that occasionally interfere with his music. The Bronx-based Ladd, whose roots lie in poetry and performance, has close ties to largely spoken-word artists like Saul Williams or Carl Hancock Rux as well as underground rap maestros like El-P or New Flesh. Born in Cambridge, MA, Ladd played bass or drums in varying types of garage bands while in high school...
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Negrophilia - The Album, Mike Ladd
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