Ambitious, and brilliant, fourth LP from the New York MC.
Mike Diver 2011-02-15
Robert Edward Stewart (the second), aka Beans, is one of rap’s finest tongue-twisting purveyors of befuddling non-sequiturs, brain-bumping intelligence and booty-moving beats. Yet the New Yorker remains an underground attraction, three solo LPs before this one released via Warp but – despite the label’s fine reputation – failing to fully connect with the mainstream. That might change now, though, as recent superstars-go-bonkers turns from Diddy and Kanye have widened the window of opportunity for more out-there MCs to reach fresh audiences.
Like Kayne’s multi-faceted deconstruction of his own shortcomings, released to a chorus of acclaim last year, End It All is an album unsuited to background listening. There is so much going on here that the listener yearns for a slow-motion replay, necessary to pick apart the constituents and separate vowels from vociferousness. And it’s not just our lyrical protagonist who zips along at a pace sure to kick up a stinky sweat if transposed to a morning work-out – the array of producers provide intriguing arrangements that skitter and slide, glitch and glide; that snap, crackle and pop their way into sensory overload, rendering attempts at multi-tasking while End It All plays for its 33 minutes futile.
Among those aboard for the deliberately bumpy ride: Four Tet, twice, on the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it burp-and-gurgle of Gluetraps and, later, the even briefer, but much buzzier, Anvil Falling, which comes on like Aesop Rock cornered by an angry swarm of Atari Teenage Riot demos. Warp electro-head (Chris) Clark drapes android-insect twitches atop closer Hunter, a close cousin of the sci-fi sounds heard on the last El-P album; and Interpol drummer Sam Fog(arino) turns up the suspense on Electric Bitch, a stalker anthem for baggy-panted sneaker creepers.
With members of Tortoise and TV on the Radio contributing, too, there’s no doubt that this is an ambitious LP from the Antipop Consortium member. But despite the number of opinions and potentially clashing directions, everything sits where it should; the album’s flow is impressive, while also demanding of its audience when need be and brashly aggressive of tone at certain turns. Only the suitably titled Mellow You Out allows a little light in, affording the listener a breather. And while it’s a fine track, it’s a sign of its parent LP’s quality that one can’t wait for the drama to begin again with the next cut, the splendidly slippery Air is Free. Said song’s album-summarising statement: "Beans is the s***."
And he is, you know.