Artist: Various ArtistsTitle: Peanut Butter Wolf Presents Chrome ChildrenRating: 3 1/2 StarsReviewed by: Alex Thornton
In the five years since its debut on Cartoon Network, Adult Swim has not only become famous for their brand of off-beat animated programming, but has more recently earned acclaim for their string of hip-hop releases (The Mouse and the Mask, Occult Hymn and the recent Chocolate Swim EP). As part of their trademark style, Adult Swim bookends its shows with beats from some of the most prominent names in independent Hip-Hop, and with Chrome Children (Stones Throw), they once again carry their appreciation of the art into a daring full-length album.
While presented by Adult Swim, Chrome Children is more of a Stones Throw mixtape than Cartoon Network promo; the artists are allowed to breathe and be themselves rather than attempt to force out songs about drunken mice and redneck squids. Whether its Guilty Simpson’s tough-talk on “Clap Your Hands,” Georgia Anne Muldrow’s bubbly optimism on “Simply a Joy,” or the low key instrumental groove of Aloe Blacc’s “What Now,” the compilation’s greatest success is its ability to remain true to Adult Swim’s sensibilities without an abundance of references to the cartoons. Those who follow the independent scene know that J Dilla (RIP) and Madlib can be trusted to run with the ball, but it’s remarkable to see them given freedom to roam on a project indirectly sponsored by Ted Turner.
Predictably, the downside to a list of artists this diverse is that the total package may be difficult to digest, especially for those who are being exposed to these acts for the first time. Several of the 19 songs are only around two minutes long, and with many of them deserving more time (such as Jaylib’s “No $ No Toke” or the aforementioned “Joy”) an equalized distribution of material may have served as a better showcase for the label’s talent, even if it meant hearing less of it.
While Chrome Children isn’t as far out in left field as Mouse and the Mask, it’s refreshing to see a small label get big money backing without having to sell its soul. Peanut Butter Wolf and Stones Throw have crafted a well done addition to the family of Adult Swim albums, and while it casts a wide net over the genre, just like the Adult Swim shows, the mix manages to provide something for everyone without necessarily trying to aim for anyone in particular.