‘In Rotation: Samiyam, ‘Sam Baker’s Album’

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In the mid-'90s, the Sony Playstation launched ‘Twisted Metal,’ a demolition derby video game that easily convinced teenage stoners to fork over $50 to launch a fusillade of weapons ranging from ballistic projectiles, machine guns and nuclear weapons.

‘Sam Baker’s Album,’ the latest release from local Brainfeeder affiliate Samiyam, feels something like the last incarnation of the video game -- it takes ‘90s boom-bap and the dusted floorboard rattle of producer J Dilla at his most metallic, and welds them into a series of warped shapes worthy of M.C. Escher. There are no M.C.s within; this is instrumental hip-hop at its apex, a genre that has seen a peculiar but welcomed critical revival this year, following a decade-plus of being perpetually dogged.


The influence of Dilla obviously runs rampant throughout, but deeper listening reveals the buried clues. The shouts of M.O.P. and the bloodbath raps of Mobb Deep. Even the sound of cats meowing. It feels like a sweltering California chronic-fueled reimagination of classic ‘90s New York hip-hop. Tar-caked drums and lingering claustrophobia. Song titles like ‘Escape,’ ‘Bricks’ and ‘Pressure.’ The auditory equivalent of getting mugged in the middle of paradise.

Download: Samiyam-'Cushion’ MP3

Of all the Low End Theory regulars, Samiyam’s DJ sets most consistently skew toward hardcore rap, with kufi-smacking rappers like Roc Marciano and Danny Brown knocking skulls alongside the latest sounds barrelling out of London (after all, Sam was invited to contribute to the prestigious and real thorough ‘Hyperdub 5’ compilation).

Despite its traditionalist veneer, ‘Sam Baker’s Album’ is quietly subversive. It abandons the retro boom bap conservatism that often accompanies many underground rap releases, and replaces it with a chromatic futurism. Odd shapes, sharp corners, and strong weaponry.


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--Jeff Weiss