DJ Babu: The Beat Tape, Vol. 1

Premo, RZA, Dilla, Dre; throw on a record and their distinctive sounds are instantly apparent. A producer needs a voice and the legends have it. DJ Babu is a legend in his own right, as an essential turntablist and Hip Hop ambassador. On The Beat Tape, Vol. 1 (Nature Sounds), he moves his production experiments from the late night studio to disc. His production voice isn’t there yet, but his love for beats and craft is abundantly present, giving the project a warm and dusty sheen. Babu plays the whole map, lacing tracks with east, west, midwest, and sometimes rather eclectic feels. The latter hints at his own possible style. “Sound Music” makes an arresting and hard to pin down example, with a mix of screw and live sounding horns. However, tracks like “Round and Round” and “Love” can’t avoid comparisons to Just Blaze or Kanye, “Occult City” is like a dark Marley Marl, and the west coast bangs in the heart of “Tempreezy” and “Ebbtide.” Without a distinct signal from Babu, reminders of others are inevitable. However, he rides his drum sounds into nearly complete redemption. The kick and snare get compressed on each track inside the listener’s ear, in a deep way that only a true beat junkie can create. These drums hit. The kick and extra percussion loop on “Classix,” as well as the hi-hat on “Bug Guys,” particularly showcase Babu’s reverence for the holiest of Hip Hop instruments and his laudable process of search, EQ, and destroy.Babu shares his love of beats, rhymes, and life as his talents elevate. He’s dedicated his life to it. The Beat Tape, Vol. 1 may have benefited from a few emcees but it’s far from a misstep, and beat junkies indeed, as well as aspiring rappers in need of inspiration, will dig this for sounds and ideas, as DJ Babu continues to do his thing.