Beans Now Soon Someday

[Warp; 2004]

Styles:  hip-hop
Others: El-P, Prefuse 73, Roots Manuva, Dizzee Rascal, Alias

Some heads think Beans disappeared too far up his own synthesizer. This ain't hip-hop, right? Not real hip-hop anyway. How can it be? What happened to the old DJ/emcee combo? Where are the scratching and samples? But most importantly, where are this weirdo's ghetto credentials? Where are the scars and bullet wounds?

Well, here's the deal. This Anti-Pop crusader is too busy breaking through barriers (his own and those built around him by others) to give a flying fuck about what's real and what isn't. And by doing just that, he's staying more true to the original principles of hip-hop (experimentation, sonically and lyrically) than any two cent wonder chasing the green and propping up the pop charts.

Of course, this isn't a solo mission. Many others have been blazing their own trail, and hip-hop remains more experimental than pretty much any other form of music around. From El-P to Dizzee, Scott Herren, and the RZA, it goes without saying that the list goes on and on. Of course, hip-hop has always had an experimental edge. Check the DJ Premier production on "Scientifical Madness," Jeru the Damaja's track from back in '96, which wouldn't be out of place on Warp today. Indeed, Jeru for me has a vocal delivery pretty similar to Beans, although the Damaja's lyrical content is more structured and not as startling.

Beans' wayward genius has found the perfect home at Warp. The music's got that electronic sound shared by the likes of Prefuse 73 and he's expressed his admiration for artists such as Autechre in the past. Scott Herren contributes a couple of remixes on this album, and of course they fit in perfectly. Those who say Warp has lost it are way off the mark; they've just shifted focus. Check their offshoot label Lex Records for other examples of new, exciting hip-hop; they're still pushing the boundaries all right.

Although this album's got the Warp trademark electronic edge to it, it's still sonically distinctive. So, "Crevice" has classic Autechre bass grumbles underpinning it, but these rumble underneath an eerie Hammond sound that sounds unlike anything else around.

The music is great, but it's through his lyrics that Beans really heads out into the stratosphere. This is truly stream-of-consciousness stuff and makes me think of nothing other than bebop beat poetry like Kerouac hunched over his typewriter, head spinning, while bashing out reams of prose on endless reels of patched-together paper. The sheer rush of words on some tracks is amazing, but it's not wordsmithery or a juxtaposition throwing you off onto a new tangent when you least expect it.

Many of the rhymes focus more on the internal abstract workings of a hyperactive mind as opposed to more traditional hip-hop and its depiction of the externally fucked up world. However, Beans can do gritty at least as well as Eminem, as he shows on "Crevice" with its deeply personal lyrics about his childhood. An example of this would be when he refers to his stepfather who "put his feet on pops throne/ his mom he wants to bone/ her daughter maybe next if he could get past her brother."

In my view there's too much discussion about what does and does not constitute hip-hop. This is all irrelevant when there is so much good stuff out there, and this album is an example of just how exciting and surprising hip-hop can still be. It's not perfect, a couple of the later tracks have less sparks flying off them than the others, but Beans is forging ahead in his own inimitable style and long may it continue. Don't pigeonhole him either; this album does not belong to any absurd sub-genres. Check the styles up top. This is hip-hop. Keep it unreal.

1. Structure Tone
2. Win Or Lose You Lose
3. Mutescreamer (El-P Remix)
4. Databreaker
5. Gold Skull
6. Composition in Void
7. Crevice
8. Mutescreamer (Prefuse 73 Remix)
9. Phreek the Beat (Prefuse 73 Instrumental Remix)