Monday, May 18, 2009
review by Kristine Ugalde
No stranger to the game, Presto has been producing and DJing for almost 20 years. He describes his sound as “hip hop with a soul backdrop and jazz edge.” It is almost too easy to guess his influences: DJ Primo, Pete Rock, Jay Dee, Tribe--yet, he brings to the (turn)table a definitive edge.
Although State of Art was released June 2008, hip hop heads continue to sleep on Presto. Why? Because the digital age has led to saturation of wanna-be artists/producers now that hip hop has imploded the music industry and American culture. His album does justice to the hip hop luminaries before him and his collaborations on “State of the Art” with such influential hip hop greats such as Large Professor, CL Smooth, and Sadat X is an indication that hip hop, even with its explosion in the mainstream, is still capable of producing quality music.
His sound is jazzy, soulful, organic, old-school with refreshing enough to keep it contemporary. The layered instrumentation of jazzy keys, echoing horns, easy-going drum composition, and the inclusion of sleigh bells in a meticulous, yet subtle synthesis of samples shows his skill as a producer.
And so the age old question still remains: what is hip hop? Is it flashy videos, blatant misogyny, violence and brutality, or reinforcing materialistic values? To avoid sounding like a diatribe, the answer remains ambivalent.
One consolation is that Presto takes us back to the fundamental sounds of the early 90’s. Sampling jazz and soul music using a keyboard rather than an MPC gives the production a sense of intimacy and live instrumentation.
Blu still doesn’t disappoint. A favorite in the underground scene, his consciousness and ability to illustrate day-to-day vignettes demonstrates how the resurgence of West Coast hip hop deviated away from gangsta rap and into an art form used to contextualize his environment. His flow displays his excellent storytelling skills about how he emerged from being a eager amateur to internet/underground success. Blu balances his cockiness while still maintaining his cool against the jazzscape background.
His album does justice to the hip hop luminaries before him and his collaboration on his album “State of the Art” with such influential hip hop greats such as large professor, CL Smooth, and Sadat X is an indication that hip hop, even with its explosion in the mainstream, is still capable of producing quality music.
Buy at iTunes Music StorePour Another Glass