Technology has become music’s master. The average album is part man, part machine and instruments are throw backs to a time long ago. Even vocals have become a bionic mix of song bird and auto tune to the detriment of music teachers and voice coaches everywhere. If you are a fan of a more natural Hip-Hop sound with live instrumentation, you don’t have a lot of options. Recently though, a group of musicians has been kicking up sand down in the Miami club scene and they are ArtOfficial.
It’s an interesting name for a band whose sound isn’t synthetic in the least. The 6-man ensemble features a bassist, a keyboardist, a drummer, a saxophonist (who doubles as a flutist) and two emcees. The music is a jazzy Hip-Hop blend that can morph from a smooth contemporary jazz feel to a hard urban thump. Their live show has been heralded as one of Miami’s best, and they’ve managed to generate some internet buzz and quite a loyal following. The evolution of any band though, does require the actual release of a record or two and ArtOfficial took that step with their first EP, The Stranger.
The Stranger is an honest and introspective look at the lives of the emcees and their surroundings with some societal critique thrown in to boot. Lyrics from the dueling emcees are spread over lush, mid-tempo fusion backdrops that will conjure pictures of both smoke filled jazz clubs and Hip-Hop dance halls. The musicianship is impeccable and the back and fourth between the lyricists work well over the thick tracks, without the songs sounding too busy.
The opener, “Big City Bright Lights” is an ode to the concrete jungle and the melting pot of people and behavior found within. It’s a somewhat optimistic look at the urban condition set to an enthusiastic track that sets the mood for the song well.
“Gone” and “Clockwork” showcase the lyrical dexterity of the emcees. The tracks allow them to change pacing and the subject matter is a conglomerate of societal topics from the naysayers to celebrity worship and government deceptions.
“Remember the Days” is the most hard driving of the five tracks and a good closing considering the softer jazzy sounds of “Big City Bright Lights.” There is some back patting going on in this track, but the hubris is minimal and well earned.
Knit-picking does require a mention of the similarities between the music on some of the songs. The five tracks selected for The Stranger don’t showcase the depth of the groups sound. So those who prefer the boom bap over the jazz may hear this album and think ArtOfficial isn’t for them. However, a cursory surf of the web will net you a cover of “Dont Sweat the Technique” that really ain’t no joke as well as other more up tempo and Hip-Hop driven offerings from the group.
Their sound is full and definitely for a more mature Hip-Hop ear. Profanity is sparse. Chips, whips and honey dips are set on the back burner for more substantive lyricism. The music is authentic. It’s effectual and it’s dope. So check your local club calendar and be the first on your block to get down with these cats because are they are beasting live scenes all across the nation. They are called ArtOfficial but this type of music is as real as it gets.
Big City Bright Lights
Eyes of a Stranger
Out of 5
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