Sunday, December 23, 2012

Album Review: Jason James & Rodney Hazard - "Pyramids in Stereo"

It's been a while since I last posted 'cause I'm on winter break, so my schedule has slowed down to petty much just sleeping, eating, listening to music, and watching Burn Notice. It's been pretty sweet. I'm here to make my last post of 2012, but once 2013 swings around, I'll be sure to update all y'all with what's coming up. Cool? Cool.

Without further ado, today we dive into the latest release from Jason James & Rodney Hazard: Pyramids in Stereo.

Jason James is a Vancouver-based rapper who's been working with New York producer Rodney Hazard for a while. In 2010, they released Marvelous World of Color and now they're back with Pyramids in Stereo. I've got to be frank here. Pyramids is a fantastic album. It's the album I said should be on my Top 10 of 2012 list, but didn't end up there because I published the list before listening to this album. I honestly feel bad for not including it on the list now, but the list is already out there. Shitty on my part.

So, Pyramids is a sample heavy, production light album with the focus on James' lyrics. The beats and tracks are generally pretty quiet in comparison to the rhymesayer's voice, but that's not to say they're poor quality tracks at all. The production is carefully layered with tons of reverb laden synth and keys, minimalist drums and tons of samples. The samples are perfectly chosen for each track, with clips taken from TV's The Price is Right, various news casts and news interviews from the scene of a shooting tragedy, and Kubrick's masterpiece Full Metal Jacket among many others. Along with the samples, Hazard's studio wizardry helps give the backing tracks even more depth. A favorite of mine has got to be the song "This is my Rifle", where the echoing and reverberating synth conjures up thoughts of a lone bullet flying through the air. Hazard definitely makes some of most well produced tracks I've heard in a while.

Jason James handles his role as MC as well as Hazard handles production duties, too. James' has unbelievable flow. Like, it's ridiculous how fluid his rhymes come out of your speakers. That being said, no matter how fast he spits out lines, he's always articulate and intelligible. You can always make out every word James says on Pyramids. His lyrics are powerful and moving, mostly covering political and social issues with his words. Personal favorites of mine are the two first tracks, "Return to the Marvelous World" and "Life as we Know it", where the latter's chorus is a plea for honesty, good will and righteousness among people everywhere. Solid.

Pyramids has a few other artists featuring on it who bring some cool dynamics to the album. Most notable has to be Mark McGrath and Adam Nigro on the closing track "Bang Bang Boogie Men". The instrumentation is a blues-rock guitar riff that is just hammered into your head over and over again. It's something reminiscent of The White Stripes, The Black Keys or Clutch, and when the outro solo hits, it just straight up rocks. It's something unconventional to hear in rap or hip-hop music, and it really makes for a powerful closer to the album.

Bomb-Ass Tracks: Life as we Know it, This is my Rifle, Bang Bang Boogie Men

On a Playlist With: Childish Gambino, MF Doom, Madvillain

Overall Score


Pyramids in Stereo is razor sharp and dead honest in it's execution. Through Rodney Hazard's beautiful production and awe inspiring lyrics and vocal work courtesy of Jason James, it stands as one of the best rap/ hip-hop albums of 2012, bar none. It's a damn shame my Top 10 list was already published, or Pyramids in Stereo would without a doubt be ranking high up there.

You can listen to and download Pyramids in Stereo from DJBooth, AudioMack, Bandcamp, or Soundcloud. You can check out Jason James on Facebook here, too.

That's all for now, folks! Merry almost Christmas, happy post-Hanukkah, jolly every other holiday/ whatever the hell you celebrate! See you in the new year!


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