Despite a long history of beats being standalone songs, especially in genres such as jungle and ragga, which were often made using the same technologies and methods as hip-hop songs (sampling, digital manipulation, drum machines, synthesizers etc), hip-hop fans still largely view beats as static receptacles, pre-loaded canvasses. In other words, until vocals are added beats are thought of as parts of songs rather than as songs themselves. This strain of thought is slowly dissipating, especially as the supergenre, EDM, finds itself increasingly in bed with hip-hop (See: Trillectro), but this dissipation is not self-perpetuating. There are catalysts actively driving this phenomenon, preventing it succumbing to its own, stifling inertia.
YellaFingizZillaJamz VOL. 5, the latest beat tape from producer CrackZilla, is one of those catalysts. Mining pop culture and his own creative mind for compatible and even incompatible sounds and images, CrackZilla gives us a beat tape that could easily be appropriated by some [adventurous] rapper (or singer), yet is perfectly autonomous without vocal interventions (besides the obligatory recurring producer tag: “Craaaaackkk….Zilla, Zilla).
The songs are variously menacing (“Only Smellz”), haunting (“Prometh Gator”), soft (“When Pigs Fly”) and spacey (“Got 2 Like Rambo”), taking listeners on an opaque, yet engaging sonic journey. Opacity is often avoided by both rap consumers and producers, but CrackZilla revels in it, beckoning us to enjoy the ride despite not knowing who exactly is in the driver’s seat. There are glimpses of personality in the strange song titles and in the gaudy artwork, but there’s no need for transparency here. The lack of knowledge does nothing to stifle one’s musical experience. In fact, it possibly enables that experience. Presented with just disparate sounds, the listener is forced to notice their myriad little flourishes. The strange wail at the beginning of “Russian Breakfast” and the odd vocals on “Jala Gah” become characters.
In the end, YellaFingizZillaJamz VOL. 5 is a fun opportunity to rethink how to listen to hip-hop and to engage with the weird mind of another mysterious internet producer. Even after 10 listens, you won’t be able to figure out what exactly CrackZilla listens to for fun (other than Danny Brown. See: “Wit Da Goud”), but that makes your listening experience even more enriching. Check it out below.
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