Album Review: Substantial and Marcus D Are Bop Alloy – Bop Alloy

Vagrant Rant’s first album review in a long time comes courtesy of Dazidia, a Croatian music man and anime enthusiast who produces some smooth tunes of his own over on SoundCloud, which you can also take in via his YouTube Channel.

—Written by Dazidia—

—Edited/formatted by Vagrantesque—

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Released:
September 2010
Label:
Tamashie Creations Corp.
Genre: Jazz-Hop/Jazzy Hip-Hop
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That’s some awfully tiny text in the middle.

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TRACK LISTING

1. Jazzmatic (feat. Steph the Sapphic Songstress)
2. Another Day In The Life (feat Cise Star and Mr SOS)
3. Chillaxation
4. Cloud 9 (Interlude)
5. The Art Of Work (feat Steph the Sapphic Songtress)
6. Save The Day
7. Universe Works (feat Steph the Sapphic Songstress)
8. Star Child
9. Music (Interlude) (featuring Steph the Sapphic Songstress)
10. Lead The Followers (feat Edgar Allan Floe, Niles*, Steph, Tunji)
11. Still Think Different
12. Why The World Weeps (feat. Mello-D, Steph)
13. In Memoriam… (Interlude)
14. The Boy With No Name
15. Tokyo Twilight

When you want to build a bridge solid and impervious to rust, you use an alloy of iron and carbon for a durable structure. Likewise, when you want that firm balance between classy jazz melodies and smooth lyrical flow, your best bet is Bop Alloy. Featuring the likes of chilled wordsmith Substantial and producer Marcus D, Bop Alloy is off to a strong start with their first construction Substantial and Marcus D are Bop Alloy (2010), creating a perfect blend between the chillaxing smoothness of jazz and a lively urban beat, perfect for your local cafe rendezvous.

The album opens up with one of it’s most solid tracks, giving us an immediate foreshadowing for what this album has in store for us. Jazzmatic tells its listeners EXACTLY what Bop Alloy is all about, acting as a perfect introductory track to the project’s very first album. Steph’s gorgeous background vocals compliment Substantial’s rapping so well that it’s hard to imagine the track without her cameo. Grab your java, park yourself on a lounge and get ready for pure chill-ness ladies and gentlemen, because Bop Alloy is here to satisfy.

Another Day In The Life takes us once again on a relaxing journey, adopting a very Raujika-esque feel with the piano. It’s a mediocre track which allows the following track, Chillaxation, to really shine. The second you hear the saxophone’s vibrato, you know you are in for a treat as Chillaxation begins to unfold. The saxophone’s powerful presence is a warm addition to the masterpiece, an essential piece in emulating the lounge atmosphere.

The Cloud 9 interlude is a short and sweet track, winding us down from the goodness we witness in Chillaxation. So now that we are relaxed, it is time to take it up a notch with the upbeat Art Of Work, now implementing an acoustic guitar into the mix. Where Marcus’ genius begins to really shine once more, however, is on the ever-so-funky follow-up track Save the Day.

Clearly inspired by the string samples we hear in the legendary Jamiroquai, Save the Day is refreshingly boppy. It is impossible NOT to at least move slightly up and down as the track plays. This track is a welcome change-up, which caters to fans of funk but acknowledges it’s hip-hop roots with lyrics that serve as a letter to the audience promising the revival of a classy brand of hip-hop.

The next track blew me away. Fans of Watanabe’s Cowboy Bebop would know very well why upon listening to Universe Works. The track opens with a sample from this classic anime’s soundtrack; Wo Qui Non Coin by The Seatbelts, where it can be heard throughout the song. Best of all, Marcus blends the sample in seamlessly (as always) with his own audio tools and beats. While Substantial’s lyrics really didn’t stand out for me in this one, it is by no means out of place.

Returning once again to the funk comes one of my personal favourite driving tracks, Star Child. This groovy track doesn’t stand out too much in any particular way, however it blends into the background perfectly, adding another colour to the palatte which makes up the album in its entirety. Before moving on to another of the album’s highlights, we are taken on a dreamy interlude with Steph’s hypnotic vocals. Not a word is spoken, but we know that we are in for a treat as it builds into the next song. Lead the Followers brings in the likes of Edgar Allan Floe, Niles*, Tunji and once again Steph in one huge collaborative track, giving Substantial a break as we are treated to a fresh batch of modern-day poets. It’s a nice little ditty, but the next grabbed my attention the minute I saw the title.

Still Think Different is, without a doubt, a direct response to Think Different, a track by the departed Nujabes (rest in beats). I’ll be honest; Nujabes is the sole reason I got into this genre. For anyone familiar with Watanabe’s Samurai Champloo, there’s no doubt in my mind that you would be familiar with this name, with the likes of Fat Jon, Tsutchie, and the legend himself running the soundtrack. Jazz-hop does for Champloo exacly what Jazz did for Bebop. Seriously, go watch Cowboy Bebop if you haven’t already. It’s a cult classic for good reason. But I digress.

Mello-D’s lyrics are rougher than Substantial’s in Why The World Weeps. While the clash between his voice and the delicate piano loop doesn’t wreck the song at all (thanks to Marcus D’s mastery of mixing drums and piano), it isn’t a necessity for the lounge atmosphere that has been set up to this point in the album. As ascertained by the title, In Memoriam recognises a handful of dead souls who helped influence the Bop Alloy project (of which the legendary Michael Jackson is included); the final dedication going to Nujabes for taking the hip-hop scene to it’s next paradigm in jazz-hop.

Speaking of Michael Jackson, if a smooth criminal ever had a theme, Bop Alloy nailed it. The Boy With No Name is a great track to begin driving home to, as the album begins to wrap up our sobering musical journey. As the sax makes its reappearance, the title begins to take form as the mysterious melody line spells enigma in musical form. Taking us out on a brighter note, Tokyo Twilight offers us a beat to walk out of the cafe with. The track doesn’t possess the bang which I believe an album should finish on however, and once again it just moves into the background while the potential social going-ons in the establishment that might be playing this album overshadow the track. It does not prove to be out of place however, and caters to the classic rap vs beat element adopted by many hip-hop tracks. Misled by the jazzy classiness of some of the previous tracks though, I was really hoping for keys and brass to collide once more to remind us what Bop Alloy plans to do to reinvent the current hip-hop paradigm. But hey, perhaps that’s just the jazz pianist in me talking….. or typing…. but once again, I digress.

Thanks to the album’s mastery at modernising the cool, calm feeling that only jazz can offer us, combined with family-friendly lyrics which flow like the tidecaller’s wave in harmony with the ocean, Bop Alloy’s first project is perfect for the cafe scene, sitting somewhere in the background but never ignored.

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THE VERDICT

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Strongest Tracks:
Jazzmatic, Chillaxation, Save The Day, Universe Works, Why The World Weeps, The Boy With No Name
Weakest Tracks:
Tokyo Twilight
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4.5 VsI N C R E D I B L E

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