Galactic: From The Corner To The Block

What could go wrong when one of the country’s most experimental jazz groups collaborates with some of Hip-Hop’s most innovative emcees? Galactic’s sixth studio album, From the Corner to the Block (ANTI-), answers emphatically: “not too much.” The self-proclaimed jazz-funk-rock group, spawned over a decade ago in New Orleans, provides the background while a slew of talented rappers hailing from the The Big Easy all the way up to the Bay Area bless the mic. As per usual, Galactic infuses every track with its unique brand of music that swings, wails and rocks. The theme, as the title of the LP suggests, is city life, and to listen to these soulful street narratives unfold is an experience as cinematically rich as actually walking down your own block. The diverse guest list does not disappoint (and even pleasantly surprises—more on that in a second), as acclaimed, proven emcees like Boots Riley of The Coup and Gift of Gab of Blackalicious (“The Corner”) deliver their lyrical best. Riley spits the dictionary (and not just the English one) while still managing to paint a vivid picture on “Hustle Up:” “Feelin’ like it’s futile / Bein’ here is brutal / Savagin’ my scruples / Peep into my pupils / Never had to slang til the rent quadrupled / Dame dinero, the yen, the rubles.” Riley’s flow on this track is as biting as the relentless electric guitar that accompanies it. Other guests including Mr. Lif (“…And I’m Out”), Lateef the Truth Speaker (“No Way”), and Chali 2na of Jurassic Park (“Think Back”) shine as well, if only slightly less brightly. But let’s be honest—who didn’t expect great verses from the likes of these lyrical juggernauts? Where it really gets interesting is when Juvenile—yes, the former Cash Money star, he of “Back That Azz Up and “Rodeo”—steps in the booth for an intriguing pairing of two quite disparate New Orleans performers. Juve positively murders the joint, which by no accident is the title track. While his words are above average, his flow fits so well with the swinging beat that he will leave you wishing he rapped over trumpets more often (and 808s less). From the Corner to the Block is an inimitable venture into a Hip-Hop scene that demands to be noticed; one that could even, conceivably, help rebuild a city that so desperately needs it. SOUNDCHECKGalactic f/ Mr. Lif "...And I'm Out"Galactic f/ Juvenile & The Soul Rebels Brass Band "From The Corner To The Block"