...It's hard to imagine a more succinct display of old Orleans brass and New Orleans...
Alex Forster 2008
Mixing MCs and live instruments really can go either way. Over a decade into their career, New Orleans funk outfit, Galactic, have taken the plunge; dispensing with their lead vocalist and enlisting the help of a slew of rappers on their sixth record. Galactic devised a brief for each of their collaborators to work around. Working to the concept of corners in the city, from literal and metaphorical urban intersections to the crossing of musical paths, each MC gives their own interpretation of street life. Don't let the dreaded 'concept album' tag put you off, though, From The Corner… perfectly meshes the chaotic, Mardi Gras of Ozomatli with the spaced-out funk of Quannum Projects and The Roots.
Opener I Got What You Need sees Lyrics Born kickstart the jam with his rap/singing hybrid. The track has distinct echoes of his work on Quannum's 1999 hit, I Changed My Mind. Therein lies the only problem with this record. Galactic are a group that boldly wear their influences and sometimes these shades of inspiration can seem like a looming shadow. For instance we get the wah-wah funk of Bounce Baby, which borrows heavily from the instrumental jams of The Beastie Boys' Ill Communication.
With the exception of Louisiana native, Juvenile, the MCs on board are all sourced from the indie-rap pool, though there are some elements of New Orleans 'bounce' (a mix of crunk and screw hip hop) at work. Mr. Lif breezes through …And I'm Out, tackling contentious issues with an insightful but light-hearted delivery. Chali 2na of Jurassic 5 (Think Back) and Lateef the Truth Speaker also make memorable appearances; the latter - on the chorus of No Way - shines the brightest.
Galactic demonstrate mature musicianship throughout, always excercising restraint where over-zealous players might drown out the narratives of the guest wordsmith. Only on the Boots Riley-featuring Hustle Up do they get the balance wrong. And when the group allow themselves moments of instrumental indulgence (the Youngblood Brass Band swinging-stomp of Fanfare), it's hard to imagine a more succinct display of old Orleans brass and New Orleans bounce.