Jan 20, 2009 - 1:51 AM
We all know that the radio can be bullshit some, if not most, of the time: pop tunes manufactured from the same labels that sound damn near identical, talk radio hosts that go on rambling diatribes, annoying ass commercials and cheesy sound effects. But, as with everything, there can also be some beauty in it. So Cal producer Exile knows this, finding the beauty in radio and using sounds picked up from local L.A. frequencies exclusively to craft his instrumental magnum opus, Radio, in stores today on Plug Research.
By now, you should know who Exile is. His name has been on critics’ tongues since dropping the highly praised Below the Heavens in ’07 with everyone’s favorite new emcee, Blu. Prior to that, he held it down with Aloe Blacc as one half of Emanon (it was “Blind Love” from Anon and On that had me really checking for this cat). Somewhere between then and now, he’s done beats for Jurassic 5, Mobb Deep, Ghostface, Kardinal Offishal and others. And if those accomplishments aren’t enough to warrant the man his due props, then Radio surely will.
The daring concept of Radio seems like something conjured up by a mad scientist: an album made solely of samples from the radio—static, frequency shifts, talk radio clips and all. Think of Radio as a beautiful Frankenstein giving new life and purpose to the tired radio waves. Without emcees on his beats, Exile fills the space with arrangements akin to free jazz that. “Watch Out! False Prophet” sounds like something Madlib would create, opening with grinding bass, organs and…is that a kazoo? The shape-shifting beats are diverse and schizophrenic, yet the album carries a cohesive vibe when played front to back. It’s a long ride from the upbeat, electro-ish “Population Control” to the jazzy, laidback “In Love,” but Exile makes it a breezy trip by meticulously manipulating his samples.
More than just pleasant sounds, Exile speaks through these tracks and samples, hinting at his stance on politics and his love for music and marijuana through precisely placed samples and vocal clips. In the middle of “It’s Coming Down,” he places the quote: “Just remember, we’re not human beings having a spiritual experience; we are spiritual beings having a human experience.” On “So We Can Move,” he drops the quote: “I make music. I don’t play it, I make it … I believe that music is one of God’s will and God’s will will be done. So my reward is he lets me make it.”
Exile must have spent countless hours next to his boombox searching for the perfect clips to get his message across. Or maybe not. That’s the beauty of this project—everything seems so calculated, but also free at the same time. For true heads that respect and appreciate creativity, Radio will take you on a musical journey that you’ve never been on before.
Zoneil Maharaj is editor-in-chief of Oh Dang!