For the undeveloped and uncultured listener, hip-hop is generally a love-it-or-hate-it genre. Sure, mainstream hip-hop is arguably one of the most popular genres out there at the moment, with only radio-ready pop-rock putting up any sort of real competition, but for all of the eight year olds (or sixteen year olds if you live in a ghetto such as, oh I dunno, sunny Boynton Beach, Florida!) having after school rap battles and blasting 50 Cent and Eminem at their mothers each time they are told to clean their room, there are just as many xenophobic eight year olds who are too busy throwing up the devil horns at Green Day concerts to bother giving anything aside from angst-y pop-punk a chance. But with an open mind, even to the most xenophobic listener, there are a few hip-hop records that could easily make converts out of just about everyone due to their undeniable quality and accessibility.
One of these is the debut record from Deep Puddle Dynamics, the veritable hip-hop super group featuring Sole, Slug (of Atmosphere), Dose One, and Alias. The Taste of Rain…Why Kneel was released on the Anticon hip-hop collective, which was actually founded by Sole, in 2002. The Taste of Rain is not just any ordinary hip-hop album, its arguably the best hip-hop album of all time, and a masterpiece at that. Contrary to the popular misconception that most hip-hop utilizes no traditional instruments, the production on The Taste of Rain utilizes samples of just about every traditional instrument you can think of. Horns appear on Where the Wild Things Are. Violins, cellos, and violas are abound on June 26, 1998, while pianos and acoustics drive the melody behind Deep Puddle Theme Song, putting to rest the stereotypical and myopic production that plagues modern hip-hop.
Like most underground hip-hop, the production is raw and stripped down as opposed to being glossy and bass heavy like more mainstream hip-hop. But instead of the production hindering the album, it gives it character and allows the 4 emcee’s to shine through brilliantly (more on that later). The percussion sounds more like it was recorded live than programmed, which gives the music a more organic quality than is seen on other underground hip-hop albums, including Deltron 3030 and other cult favorites of the genre. Many of the other aforementioned samples also give The Taste of Rain a beautiful atmosphere. Whether it’s the dark and dreary sound found on Thought vs. Action, to the Eastern-tinged melodies of June 26, 1998: A. Slight or the up-beat, almost mechanical stomp of the aforementioned Where the Wild Things Are, every song on the album creates an atmosphere of some sort, and all do so successfully.
While many might consider it a gimmick, all four emcees give outstanding performances on this album, both in delivery and in lyrics. Slug and Alias are the two standouts, Slug adopting a more rapid-fire style of delivery that compliments his sarcastic and humorous lyrics well, while Alias is as strong as ever, still utilizing his signature off-beat delivery to juxtapose the wit and intelligence in his lyrics. The two act as each other’s foil, especially on tracks like Heavy Ceiling where both their delivery and lyrics interplay in a wonderfully fun manner.
While slightly less impressive than Alias and Slug, Sole and Dose One both stand up well on their own. The only factor that hinders Dose One is his voice which, although it is very unique, tends to grate a bit on the first listen and is only alleviated by continued listening. Sole tends to fall under the category of being too generic for his own good, sometimes almost trying too hard to sound like Alias while still fighting to establish his own identity. Lyrically, both Sole and Dose One are on par with Alias and Slug while discussing most of the same themes that are standard fare in hip-hop (personal battles, other intellectual malarkey).
What is the most impressive aspect of The Taste of Rain is how well the album flows. For clocking in at almost an hour and ten minutes, it seems surprisingly shorter. The track arrangement is second to none, which is one of the reasons that this album has such an excellent replay value. In writing this review, I’ve listened to the album roughly three times in less than 24 hours, which is quite a feat as I can never seem to listen to the same album as many times in a row as I have with this one and not get bored of it. Now consider that I’ve been listening to this album since last fall and still can rarely find a time when I don’t enjoy it.
In short, The Taste of Rain owns. There isn’t a single track on here that is bad, and for the few flaws it has, there are too many positive aspects about it for the flaws to have any sort of impact. One would be hard pressed to find an open-minded listener who would not at least enjoy the album. That’s the levels of universal appeal this has. Some records are made for the enjoyment of a specific group of people. You won’t find post-rock aficionados listening to polka anytime soon, but it wouldn’t seem out of the ordinary to see that punk kid, that metal-head, that jazz fan, or even that post-rock lifer come to enjoy some aspect of the brilliance embodied in The Taste of Rain…Why Kneel.
01. Deep Puddle Theme Song
02. The Candle
03. Thought vs. Action
04. Where The Wild Things Are
05. June 26th, 1998
06. The Scarecrow Speaks
07. I Am Hip Hop (Move The Crowd)
08. Heavy Ceiling
09. June 26th, 1999: A. Slight
10. June 26th, 1999: B. Exist
11. June 26th, 1999: C. Purpose
12. June 26th, 1999: D. Mothers Of Invention
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