One Self

Children of Possibility (Ninja Tune) (Ubiquity)

Recently declared "the coolest record label on Earth" by Riviera magazine, California's Ubiquity Records should eclipse perennial UK slicksters Ninja Tune in the forward-looking hip-hop game. Ubiquity's banner-carriers in that arena are the Detroit production duo of Waajeed and Saadiq, better-known as the Platinum Pied Pipers. Years before they had a record of their own, Waajeed made a name for himself as a founder of Motor City rap crew Slum Village, and PPP garnered accolades from discerning journos and artists alike for their production work on a few select singles (quoth the Roots' ?uestlove: "I will go to jail for PPP"). It's that backstory that makes their ho-hum, full-length debut a letdown. The production gleams with a stainless-steel sheen that varnishes out most opportunity to hit really hard, save a few swinging moments. Hobbling on what seems like a single, album-long bass line that never deviates from midtempo shuffle, PPP is too smooth for bumping in your ride, too slow to jump to on the floor, too sparse for headphones. If there's a future foretold here, it's one of Audi commercials and coffeeshop compilations.

One Self, on the other hand, offers a truly prescient -- and playful -- vision of the shape of hip-hop to come. Composed of Russian underground guru DJ Vadim, Swiss-born vocalist Yarah Bravo, and Blu Rum 13 (Kid Koala's go-to MC), One Self rings in with a tightly woven, intercontinental ménage à trois.Vadim keeps things minimal, the space between beats yielding an undeniable funkiness. Sinuous, syncopated guitar and a bucketful of bells and whistles (the common thread between One Self and PPP? Cowbell!) thumps up against slinky, digital daydreams while Blu Rum's scruffy baritone tangoes with Bravo's stoned-out, sing-song flow. Their abstract musings on life, love, and hip-hop -- and accepting the realities of each -- arrest the ear with both content and delivery. Weird and headnotic, One Self is the sound of tomorrow's underground today.

 
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