Jay-Z might have the profile but Beck has ideas to spare.
Greg Cochrane 2009
Such was the hullabaloo surrounding the UK release of Jay-Z's Blueprint 3 last month – his appearances with Coldplay, comments on Kanye West’s mental health and abundant interviews with, most bizarrely, people like Andrew Marr – it was easy to forget that there are other artists making hip hop right now.
Thavius Beck, previously member of 90s Los Angeles collective Global Phlowtations, toils well outside the major league that Shawn Carter presides over.
He operates on a much smaller scale. However, working at home with his young children running around his feet and doing the odd Ableton public tutorial works to this rapper’s advantage. As does the experience he’s gained pushing faders for the likes of beat-poet Saul Williams, The Mars Volta and Nine Inch Nails in the past.
With two albums under his own name already – 2004’s Decomposition and 2006’s Thru – and countless under his array of aliases, Dialogue is by no means his first solo voyage. But it is his most adventurous.
On a similar tip to last year’s K-The-I??? project Yesterday, Today & Tomorrow (the album he made with rapper Kiki Ceac) it’s a album packed with tightly-wound, chunky snares sounds, low chanting vocals and Beck’s impressively deep flow drawn over the top like a darkening tarpaulin.
At 15 tracks it’s a substantial listen but Beck’s deft critique of life around him means it rarely drags. Opening salvo Money contemplates the modern day greed of his contemporaries posing the question, “Just how far would you go to get some?” Rarely has the sound of one man arguing with himself been more appealing.
Closely following that Violence is a broody master class in barren, glitchy beats which picks up the album's pace. But it’s And the Beat Goes On, positioned midway through, that is the real jewel in the crown here. An arpeggio synth line underpins a striding bass line that progressively grows in menace. It’s a frothing, funky monster showcasing the kind of imaginative stop/start production that Lil Wayne would be proud of.
Jay-Z might have the profile then but Thavius Beck, as he continues to prove, has ideas to spare.