Detroit producer honours underground hip hop on debut LP.
Marcus J. Moore 2012
J Dilla’s Welcome 2 Detroit (2001) encased the Motor City’s gritty hip hop ethos into one coherent set. It both solidified Dilla’s stature as the city’s top producer and served as a moving blueprint for Detroit’s underground rap scene. Now, the city is considered a go-to market for hip hop, as rappers Black Milk and Danny Brown have made national strides.
Michael "House Shoes" Buchanan has seen it all there: from 1994 to 2004 he served as resident DJ at the landmark St. Andrew’s Hall, a hallowed hub for local and national musicians. He’s also toured extensively with other Detroit notables, including Mayer Hawthorne. So that makes this debut album, Let It Go, another blueprint of sorts. Not only does the producer capture Motown’s soulful aesthetic, he compiles a worthwhile assortment of alternative hip hop beyond the city.
Perhaps on purpose, House Shoes pairs his hometown colleagues with those from his current Los Angeles residence. On Crazy, for instance, Black Milk and fellow Detroit native Guilty Simpson trade bars over stuttering percussion and a well-placed KRS-One sample. By the next song – the ominous Last Breath, with its tumbling drums – Virginia composer Nottz rhymes alongside LA’s Oh No and MED. Keep On, featuring California MC Co$$, serves as a decent precursor for Sweet, the album’s bellowing centrepiece with Danny Brown at the helm.
But while hip hop is the foundation, it isn’t the sole focus of this set. Castles, an airy RnB tune featuring Jimetta Rose, breaks the rap monotony with wafting vocals atop an ambient instrumental. While Let It Go feels more like a collection of songs, rather than a cohesive album, House Shoes is the binding agent throughout.
Excessive interludes drag the runtime and make the project feel a bit unfocused – but these missteps don’t subtract too much from the overall premise. Overall, Let It Go offers a differing viewpoint from popular hip hop, as told by the main character and his supporting cast. It provides a broad glimpse into House Shoes’ wide-reaching nature. There are some rough edges, but the resilience remains – much like Detroit itself.