From the Corner to the Block – Galactic
Galactic’s tenure as the kings of future funk continues with a hip-hop disc From the Corner To The Block, an album as good as any the band has released. To say this is Galactic trying a hand at hip-hop would be an insult. This is a fo’ real hip-hop album through and through, and a good one. For the project, they enlisted an underground clan of MC’s to write about a corner — any corner — and they weave their narrative soundly in and out of the band’s signature sound. Perhaps the most surprising thing here is that while this is the sound of a band stretching its palette into unchartered waters (at least in terms of albums), it’s still infused with the same Galactic we’ve always known: gritty, psychedelic, and funky.
This isn’t the best hip-hop album of the year (Pharoahe Monch might have that one in the can), but it is a rather good hip-hop album with live instruments and a deft fierceness. To say that Stanton Moore owns this album wouldn’t really be fair to the rest of the band members, who all come with their A-game (especially bassist Rob Mercurio) but it is accurate to say he is the pulse, the force, and the key to this album working as well as it does. Drums and bass are the defining elements of the genre and this rhythm section locks in to that spirit completely, creating a thick, fluid, hard-hitting punch for the rest of the band. The kick drum will ring in your chest cavity for days. In a good way.
“What You Need” features Lyrics Born painting a picture of a wheelin’ and dealin’ street vendor and puts the pop into hip-hop, which in this case ends up being a good thing, because Galactic makes sure the hop is firmly in place. “The Corner” with Gift of Gab paints a lurid picture in a million lyrical strokes, while the band channels Blackalicious on its own terms, blasting harmonica, saxes, and keys out into the landscape. It all sounds like hip-hop. “Bounce Baby” featuring spin master Z-Trip, is a soon-to-be classic Galactic track that cuts deep without a lyricist’s jabs. “Square Biz” with Ladybug Mecca and Nino Moschella is a crunchy and somewhat dark world to behold, but Ladybug (Digable Planets) sweetens it up real nice. “Second and Dryades” with Big Chief Monk Boudreau is a percussion heavy Mardi Gras beat that feels like a distorted relic from a future time.
The future is here. While a good chuck of modern (or at least popular) hip-hop relies on corporate formulas, tired sonic backdrops and escapist rhymes to push egos and not boundaries, From The Corner To The Block attempts to shove the genre towards a bit more realism, but without sacrificing that which defines hip-hop the beat and the rhyme. Galactic’s got the beat in spades, those others guys brought the rhyme. Galactic can now call a small corner of hip-hop theirs.