I was very hyped to hear that severely talented producer Damu the Fudgemunk was linking up with emcee Raw Poetic of the duo Panacea, for a mini-project to be released very soon. The latter is one of Damu and his Redefinition Records (the label he co-owns with JNOTA) strongest points; they don't announce releases that will be available three months from now and is instead a classic example of "showing, rather than telling". Damu is one of the more interesting underground producers of the day (influences from both Jay Dee, Q-Tip and Pete Rock are evident but there's no question that Damu by now has created a style he certainly can call his own) and together with several vocal tracks by Raw Poetic, who was most recently featured on another amazing Redef release in K-DEF's "Night Shift" EP, I was eager to hear this project to say the least. As soon as I saw it for pre-order I just had to cop it from UGHH and now when I recently listened to it, I knew I wanted to make a review of it ASAP.
Damu's "Kilawatt V1.5", featuring Raw Poetic, is actually an expanded version of a limited UK EP ("Kilawatt: V1") released two years ago on an imprint called just Kilawatt. I never personally heard that 12" but I do know that it featured all three Wonka Beats used here as well as vocal and instrumental versions of "Day By Day" and "Prosper". Being how good both these tracks are (and the "Wonka Beats" as well, mind you) I'm not suprised they decided to make a full project out of it, despite two years already having passed. Besides the two brand new Raw Poetic cuts, which are both just as good as the two from the OG pressing, "V 1.5" includes the Panacea remix of "Day to Day", a short intro, the "K.B. Subsonic Outro", and instrumental versions to all featured songs (as well as three hidden instrumentals tacked on at the end). The CD package also comes strapped with en exclusive and limited 7" 45 rpm single, featuring the vocal versions of my favorite album cut "Hole Up" as well as "Streamline". It's a fun idea, but nothing essential; on othe other hand I would love me a full-blown vinyl copy of this gem.
To switch things up, I'm making this a track-by-track breadkwon rather than my usuaul long review style, always good to switch things up a little from time to time.
"Day By Day / Intro" kicks off the album after a tasteful, shrort introduction. It's always a smart thing to open up an album or an EP with something that pulls the listener in right away, making him/her eager to hear what's more to come from future tracks. Such is the case with "Day by Day"; right from start it's clear that Damu, who most of the time makes banging instrumental projects, doesn't change his style too much simply because he's working with an emcee. And that is a great thing, since many of us have been wanting to hear an emcee rip Damu sounds we've fallen in love with - the soundscapes we know him from like the incredible "How It Shoul Sound Vol. 1 +2" for example.
In vintage Damu steeze the rhyhtm "section" is at the forefront; much filtered bassline with some booming bap drums topped with some addictive vocal samples, strings, horns and exceptional turntablism. Raw Poetic's style really meshes perfecly on this tough, jazz-infused beat, so their chemistry is evident right from track #1. Lyrically Raw has a laid-back flow but intense at the same time, he packs alot of words into each bar while never slipping off the beat which is a sign of a truly talented emcee. He's also blessed with a great voice to work with, and as the late, great GURU once firmly said "It's Mainly the Voice". Unquestionably a true statement if you ask me.
"Wonka Beat #1" is a mindblowing intermission that's very Pete Rock-esque, with hard kicks and a center-stage filtered bassline topped with a blasting saxophone line floating in and out of the composition, and the atmospheric vocal sample made famous on InI's "Life I Live". The instrumental runs on for about three minutes straight but never becomes boring.
"Prosper" is more chilled out record than the previous, once again with a well-known saxophone sample, a slightly unusual drum pattern, heavily filtered bassline which makes a lot for the track and melodic samples, mainly of various types of electric pianos that gives the songalot of depth. Raw Poetic blesses the track with some beautiful lyrics that meshes perfectly well with Damu's jazz-infected smoothed topped with scratched vocal sample of a young Nas, since Raw here takes his mind and spirit a trip down memory lane. Poetic's delivery comes off as very impressive and I can only hope that he gets the recognition he deserve, and very soon.
"Wonka Beat #2" comes off as a harder beat than the previous one, although I might prefer the first Wonka joint. That isn't to say that I dislike this, far from it actually. It's traditional Damu, although a little mroe agressive in nature. Once again the beat is centered around a saxophone sample, 4/4 drumkicks and a buzzing bassline but there's plenty of other sound effects throughout to keep it interesting.
"Hole Up" I absolutely love this track, right now my favorites of the entire LP, both lyhrical and beat-wise; I see the production as something like a mixture of the two previous tracks in that it's more agressive and up-tempo again with a hardhitting rhtythm but there's also plenty of great jazz elements which help take the track to the next level while at the same time smoothing it out a bit. An almost hidden saxophone is heard a lot but what really makes the song is the extensive and somewhat eclectric use of vibes, guitars and congas. Together with Raw's agressive vocal commanding all these elements truly makes this one stand out. Since the tempo is a lot higher than on the previous joints, Raw Poetic further proves his skills by seemingly effortless absolutely own the microphone. As I said before, it's clear that these two gentlemen have amazing chemistry together, and we can only hope for any more future projects.
Wonka Beat #3 The third strictly instrumenal Fudgemunk joint appears here as a vocal cut is always followed up by an instrumental and vice versa. "Wonka Beat #3" is another laid back joint that's clearly been sampled from an old record, possibly even an old 45. Yet the result is just as good as the other three "Wonka Beats". They all show a pattern of Damu first building up the main rhythm before adding a bunch of dope samples making the instrumental's three minutes an easy listen. I gotta give it up for the continued use of cuts all over this EP on this which, like here when juxtaposed with the somber broken piano chords makes it an instrumental winner. One dope thing that put a smile on my face was around the 1:50 mark where a new, clear bassline melody is introduced right before the track breaks off. I can't remember where this is from, but I'm sure it's something I got in my collection - either the original sample source or possibly another hip-hop album sampling it.
"Streamline" was the first single from the project and while it's not my favorite of the mini album, it's a sweet joint. Raw's performance is outsanding over this beat as he totally takes over with a very heavy but very clea voice that commands your attention.,The, over the rhythm well juxtaposed accostic piano sounding vibraphones and occassional female vocal samples really gives an extra point to this track, as the result is a dreamy soundscape with much owed to great jazz proving, not only perfect for Raw's vocal performance, but also that Damu is one of the most interesting producers out there today. Just check how he let the beat rid out for as much as three minutes to great effect.
"KB's Subsonic Outro" As understood by the title this is an outro, featuring longtime mutual friend K.B. giving his props to the album as well as telling stories about a younger Damu and a younger Raw Poetic. It's an interesting listen for the first couple of times, at least for those, like me, who are always intersted in learning more about artists whose music they/I enjoy. Despite a solid Damu beat running in the background throughout, this is in my humble opnion a song that will only be interesting the first few listens and could thus been left off or placed as a hidden track. I can't imagine this being something future people always want to go back for which is what you always should try when creating timeless music.
"Day By Day" [Panacea Remix] As mentioned before, Raw Poetic comes from a duo named Panacea, a group originally based in Virgina, USA. Together they have releaed several great underground albums, and in true old-school fashion, Panacea is Raw handling all vocals by himself while his partner, producer and DJ K-Murdock, is responsible for all the beatss. It's been two years since their last release dropped so I appreciate that Damu/Raw Poetic/Redef included a remix by Murdoc of my favorite track on the EP. Lyrically it's the exact same verses heard on Damu's main mix but painted over an entirely new canvas. The remix takes on a total different style with only Poetic's vocals being the same. After setting the mood with a long intro of sinister synth effects and a repeated female vocal sample, the actual track HITS at the 0:24 mark .
It's right away clear that this is not a Damu track; the jazz samples have been heavily turned down in favor for a more minimalistic '80s bap style. The booming drum patterns are thorough and it's one of the parts that makes the song work so well; a true headnodder. Most of the other sounds heard here comes from synthesizers used in different ways, it's in some aspects a track that covers the whole True School spektra; a musical bridging of hip-hop from the late '80s to the late '90s twisted with a modern flare. Just like I said about Raw Poetics recent cameo on K-Def's CD EP, I feel that this remix is by far the track that would have the biggest chance to hit remotely big as a single, although the suits over at the big labels and those handling promotion on what to play and not to play would sadly never even dream about taking such a chance these days.
Over the last two years there have been three labels steadily pumping out great underground music, taking shots on new dope artists and letting them have more or less full creative control. In my mind these three can be likened to what Rawkus was doing back in the late '90s but of course accounting for how the distribution and the record release process looks in the late '00 and up to now. The imprints I'm talking about are Mello Music Group, Slice-Of-Spice and Redefintion Records, the latter which is co-owned by Damu and of course released the CD this review has touched upon. There's hardly likely that a release like this would have been released on any major record label this day, not because it's not good, but because it is. Once again I want to say thank you to all three labels mentioned above for keeping taking chances and giving fans what they really want.
All in all Damu The Fudgemunk has done a fantastic job on "Kilawatt V.1.5", moving in the realms of jazz, funk and hardcore hip-hop it's likely that his wall of sound brought the absolute best out of Raw Poetic and it's quite possible that Raw did the very same for Damu considering the immaculate chemistry they display here. As far as music and vocals goes, this is absolutely one you can just hit play on and letting the CD run it's course, letting your mind be a part of the actual composition. Really the only thing that I felt could be improved on the disc is the sequencing. The "Wonka Beats" are dope and fits well in between each Raw Poetic featured track but maybe, just maybe, it would have been interesting to hear two or three Raw Poetic joints in a row. This does not really matter but I strongly feel that the instrumental versions of songs should all be place at the very end with no new music at all added. "KB Soniq Outro" should in my opinion appear right next to "Streamline" and the Outro should be followed by the Panacea remix. This way all new music would be presented together before the instrumentals appeared; this is not an extreme issue on the CD version but if they ever drop a vinyl version this would make things a whole lot simple for the listener.
With that being said, Damu the Fudgemunk have done it again by releasing a very interesting project that's worthy on the shef next to other landmarrk albums lik e"How It Should Sound Vol. 1 + 2" and "Supply For Demand". That he here also got one hell of a talented emcee rocking no less than five tracks works absolutely great and I hope to see more Damu/MCs collaborations in a near future. If they ever make a "Kilawatt V.2" I would love if Raw Poetic was featured on more or less all tracks, maybe except for a handful of instrumental intermission (possibly with cuts of Poetic's voice). But we'll just have to wait and see what's in store for future releases, for now I am more than happy to play this heavily for the comining time; another release which proves that hip-hop is so far from dead in 2011 and 2012 that anyone making such a claim these days either deserves a slap or are zombies getting their new music frrom commercial radio and MTV.
In closing I would like to recommend this release to anyone that appreciate most of the content and artists posted on tihis blog; we are already only a few days into March and there's already been couple albums that I've called "early contended for Album of the Year". This is by far at least the best EP / mini-album released so far and with his work here, "Night Owls" with K-Def and the little I've heard from Panacea, Raw Poetic has quickly became one rapper I'm keeping eyes and ears open forwhenever he pops up the next time.