Philadelphia’s Bmbu produces American hip hop at its finest. John Michael Alsace’s beats are rock solid and his star spangled, sophisticated instrumentation is a sight to behold. Anyone can grab hold of a sample, but it’s the flow of the final product that leaves a lasting impression.
Be it the twinkling keys of the piano on “Different Pieces” or the opening synth skipping of “Cocoon”, Bmbu plays it ultra cool. He’s always in control of his music, which wins points, layering carefully as the beats progress bar by bar, street by street. All of the tracks but one come in at under three minutes, and despite the radio friendly length it never feels rushed.
It would be a shame if this collection didn’t find its way onto the FM airways, because it’s such a sweet listen. The cool, swank piano melody casts a nocturnal glint upon the music, living amicably beside the moonlit beat like a protective streetlight. The two contrasting timbres play around with each other flirtatiously, in a way that gives credence to the saying opposites attract.
“This Can’t Be Life (Better Than The Kanye Version)” is another great little track, and the subtle, sweet bass in the root note trickles like a drop of golden honey. The rays of sunshine drip like sweat off the back of the beat’s t-shirt, and the xylophone tinted melody that sits on the same bench is easily lovable. You’ll be wanting to turn it up.
The cut up samples are inserted with authority and sit agreeably with the beat, as if they were best friends but never fully appreciated one another’s company up until now. It certainly feels like they could’ve spent years together. The beats are chunky enough to bite into and are as tasty as a dark chocolate easter egg, while their relatively short lengths means they’re easy to get into, accessible and digestible.
“Why Me?”, with its guitar chips and slight reggae flavour tells of personal dilemma in the inner urban sprawl, with the beat crossing the street corners and the roads with each passing bar. Bmbu plays around with the chords, cutting it up but paradoxically letting it flow. It recounts the daily story of life in the metropolis, in the city a million people share. The sample runs its course and then comes to a conclusion when it sets itself free from the loop, acting in the way of a resolution. The beats are heavier, which is something you don’t normally associate with reggae, nor does the scent of the city sit pretty with the paradise rhythm of syncopation, but that is the hip hop’s influence upon the music.
“Now You Do” will be familiar to Lana Del Rey lovers out there, as the darkly lit chord progression is taken from her song “Video Games”. Despite the absence of any vocal, the track never feels empty. ‘Lolita got lost in the hood’ was once how Lana Del Rey described her persona. Likewise, the phrase sinks in deeply with reBuilder. It’s a fine progression and is built upon with some sparkling harps that spray the beat and the harmony with fairy dust. Hip hop heaven is a place on Earth with Bmbu. It’s a black and white America that has aged along with its rusty dream. He isn’t afraid to put a contemporary gloss over his rhythms, nor does he shun popular tunes just because they’re popular.
Sparkling melodies twinkle like the flash of a photo taken by the backyard pool of the rich n’ famous. Hip hop is grounded in reality, yet its recent degradation and sexual obsession is the musical gatecrasher. In the 80’s and 90’s, hip hop represented society, class, culture and attitudes. Now, fast cars, fast women, playboy mansions and crass posers posing on posters dominate the genre – what happened? Handguns decorate teenage bedrooms, images and thoughts, not to mention the troublesome cultural impact of the promotion and subsequent glorification of violence through lyrical content, which surely damages the reputation of the musically rich genre. Bmbu’s music doesn’t have any parental advisory stickers labelled to it and shows the genre just where to go and where it should be heading. It’s also a great showcase for his considerable talent. You don’t usually hear this kind of quality in the everyday earphones, so check out his back catalog, tune in and listen up. (James Catchpole)