The term "alternative hip-hop" was coined in the early 90s to differentiate politically positive and musically ambitious groups like Digable Planets, Arrested Development, and the Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy from their gangsta brethren--but it should've been saved to describe the fundamentally warped output of the wild crew that revolves around the LA label Mush Records. The imprint's flagship act, cLOUDDEAD--the trio of Doseone, why?, and odd nosdam--uses obscure samples, looped breakbeats, and rhythmic vocal delivery, but there's no danger of confusing it with Jay-Z or El-P. The production is murky; the beats are consistently muffled, the ethereal, quasi-orchestral samples sound like they were recorded underwater, and without the printout it would be near impossible to make out the words. Sometimes this bridging of the hip-hop and lo-fi aesthetics seems a rather dubious accomplishment: Doseone's nebbishy delivery can be hard to endure in large doses, and when the rhythm loops accelerate and decelerate the music can sound ridiculously amateurish. But if the group frequently stumbles, it's because it's taking risks: the lethargic grooves can also be seductive, the interlocking vocal lines create complex polyrhythms, and the lyrics teeter between retarded and fascinating: "I taught myself to survive/ A four story fall/ Wearing a space suit/ And a dead Englishman's socks" opens "Jimmy Breeze (1)." Also performing are Reaching Quiet--Why? and odd nosdam backed by a four-piece rock band-- the duo of Boom Bip and Doseone, LA's Radioinactive, and comparatively conventional MC Labtekwon.


Mush Records