Artist: Boom Bap ProjectTitle: ReprogramRating: 3 1/2 StarsReviewed by: Clover Hope
“How many of y’all ever heard of Boom Bap Project y’all?” a hypeman screams before an imagined live audience. After this intro inquiry, Destro proceeds to deliver a few bars in case you haven’t heard yet. The Seattle-based Boom Bap crew, consisting of MCs Karim (aka Night Clubber Lang), Destro Destructo, and DJ Scene, has been performing inconspicuously for seven years, aiming to pour focus back on the lyricism founded on battle rap ferocity and wordplay. The basement-bump feel of the trio’s full-length debut Reprogram (Rhymesayers) reassuringly takes beats and rhymes back to old school, and as the title suggests, begs listeners to rearrange their playlists from formulaic radio hits to classic, genuine Hip-Hop.
Contrary to accepted belief, it doesn’t rain that much in Seattle. It’s more the long sequence of rainy days that the state gets its reputation from, and the rain is usually more a sprinkle than a storm. Not too many rap groups or rappers rep the notoriously damp region either, but Boom Bap seems dead-set on at least pointing Seattle out on the map if not putting it on there. “Welcome to Seattle where the sun don’t shine / where we redefine the hard lines between beats and rhymes / We solemnly swear to forever keep grindin’,” they rhyme on (what else) “Welcome to Seattle.” Despite their Northwestern roots, Boom Bap’s rhyme style resembles the rawness and precision of East Coast cats like AZ, Canibus and Talib Kweli, whose repartees are marked by witty syllables, word combos and intense refrains.
Boasting production from Seattle’s Jake One and Vitamin D, the former has carved hits for De La Soul, 50 Cent, Busta Rhymes, and Ghostface Killa, Reprogram presents unobtrusive, well-crafted beats to match the adept lyricism of Karim and Destro, who explain their reasoning for not conforming to the industry prototype in the title track: “I found my priority / I’m focused on the artistry / avoid making society an integrated part of me.” Keeping with their non-conventional rule, “Followin’ Formulas” warns against pursuing standardized hits. And true to the essential ingredients of deejaying, “The Back Bone of Hip-Hop,” produced by DJ Scene and featuring DJ Vinroc, places the spotlight more on sound than beat, with minimal rhyming. The track begins with a faint piano jingle that lingers throughout, then drifts into record scratching and a simple back-in-the-day drum bass.
Clearly Boom Bap is on a mission to avoid classification and unnecessary homogeny, so they opt for low-key party joints, quality lyricism, even a reggae-inspired song (“Sho Shot”). But with more MCs claiming a return to “real” Hip-hop, the crew might find themselves reluctantly amongst the crowd. Depending on one’s affinity to basement head-nodding type music, though, Reprogram is either too chill or just chill enough—but definitely real.