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Jake One CD Release Party
Fifth Element In-Store, Minneapolis
Tuesday, Oct. 7, 2008



by Roe Pressley
10/8/08

You might not know him by name, but you've definitely heard some of the tracks he's produced. Aesop Rock, 50 Cent. Brother Ali, Busta Rhymes. Slug, Prodigy. All these rappers have done songs with this prolific beat maker, and all can be heard on his new album, White Van Music.

In keeping with their tradition of providing free, intimate in-store performances to promote the release of certain key albums, Fifth Element hosted a storefull of anxious scene dwellers yesterday. Those in attendance were not disappointed. Not only was the party hosted by Brother Ali, but there was even free Red Bulls (original AND sugar-free, thank you) provided by the Red Bull street-team girls. Could it get any better??

Actually, yes. Beat makers and listeners alike were fastened in for a demonstration by Big Quarters' Medium Zach and Doomtree's Lazerbeak as they battled one another with their latest productions. Admittedly, I missed round one, but it sounds like Zach won that one. Round two exhibited two interpretations of the same seed which the producers were given a short amount of time to grow into a flower. Zach's version was a smooth groove, tight and flawless, something you could flow to or just as easily grind to on the dance floor if you have the right companion. Beak's was abrasive, in-your-face, and downright rowdy--right along the same lines of the prototypical sound for which many Doomtree tracks are known, thanks to him. The difference between the two beats were about as pronounced as the difference between quantum physics and under-water basket weaving. In the end, the crowd decided Lazerbeak won.

Taking a step out to the block for a breather, I was smacked by the literal reality of the album title: it turns out the white van is not something intangible and metaphorical that exists inside us all, as I initially thought. It's a big fucking white van parked in front of Fifth Element, assumably cram-packed full of Jake One's live music gear and instruments. Then, turning my attention to the other people outside, I was astounded by another harsh reality. As I began passing out fliers for a show I was promoting, it became clear that everyone outside was also there to pass out fliers. And pass them out we did--back and forth between each other mostly, like a group of chimps taking turns pruning each other and beating their chests in a communal orgy of shameless self-promotion. But that's a nice thing about promoting to other promoters--they know what you're going through and are less likely to be critical or condascending of your efforts. Meanwhile, the targeted audience who might actually have a legitimate interest in what you're promoting often treat you like you're asking for spare change.  What's with that?

Back inside, we were treated to a special performance by I Self Devine, whose prominence and contribution to the scene need not be described. This was great, especially when a routine call-and-response with the audience went awry: it seems white hip-hop kids have a serious problem with dropping the N-bomb, even when it's the response to a black rapper's call. I Self commended the audience's political correctness. Personally I think political correctness in this context is just a thinly veiled form of racism in itself, but I'll save that for the op-ed page.

The main event was Brother Ali's conversation/interview with Jake One, which led us through a his creative approach to sampling, beat making, and production. He also shared a few anecdotes from his experiences working with artists from all parts of the hip-hop spectrum. Apparently, Keak Da Sneak lives in a white yuppie part of Sacramento, but that doesn't cramp his style: he still knows how to get superduper hyphy with his antiquated version of ProTools and his pimped-out meditation den.

And that's probably a lot of what makes Jake One's job interesting: as an indiscriminate maker of fatty beats, he works with everybody from chart-topping pop rappers to those scraping by at the top of the underground. And this diversity is sure to keep Jake and his sound in a constant state of evolution

###

Roe Pressley

Check out the related photo gallery of the street mob outside Wednesday night's [legitimate] Rage Against the Machine concert.



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