South London producer creates hip hop for the nerdy soul.
Marcus J. Moore 2011-08-12
"We don’t know where we’re going to, but we sure make a lot of noise getting there!" That seemingly random statement, taken from Paul White’s new album, depicts perfectly the enigmatic south London producer, whose affinity for dusty instrumental loops and arbitrary verbal recordings make him a working class hero to crate-digging DJs, and a psychedelic dream-weaver to conservative listeners. White’s music is charmingly bizarre and saturated with divergent sounds, blended together to create an abrasive concoction of cosmic distortion. This music is hazy and downright inaccessible. Which makes it wonderful.
It’s that muddy quirkiness which carries Rapping with Paul White, an 18-track onslaught of intergalactic break-beats, Afro-funk grooves, and an unexpected Pee-wee Herman laugh. In years past, White went at it alone, relying only on obscure samples to punctuate his songs. This time, the producer integrates a few choice MCs into his melting pot of sound. Tireless Detroit rapper Guilty Simpson lends his voice to two tracks (Trust and Dirty Slang), methodically sucker-punching the drums with controlled fervour. "Suffocating in the drama, these days I only put the trust in my mama," he rhymes on Trust. Elsewhere, dark humour reigns supreme: "Go ‘head be a joker / We saw what happened to Heath Ledger," Marv Won raps on Run S***.
Despite such fine assistance, White proves he doesn’t always need any help. While The Doldrums is a raucous, synth-heavy composition with a vocoder, Thirty Days is quiet, held together by Moog, angelic moans and high-pitched strings. Throughout Rapping with Paul White, the music seems to swell as it plays, taking the listener on a kaleidoscopic journey through its maker’s creative mind. That imagination has served him well thus far: in 2009, shortly after the release of his debut album, the prominent DJ Diplo said he was White’s "biggest fan".
A year later, White’s podcast for Stones Throw Records quickly amassed 300,000 downloads. So there’s no denying the widespread demand for his esoteric mixture. Some will call it noise, others a beautifully complicated symphony. In the end, you’re not quite sure where you’ve landed, but you’re glad you took the trip.