"Sonic Smash" by DJ Spinna

DJ Spinna
Sonic Smash

High Water Music
2009

Review

This album took a few listens to settle in. It didn't jump out at me right away, and I'm glad that I stuck with it because the more I listen to it, the more I find to like. It is difficult for a Producer to find a consistent rhythm when working with so many different artists, and to be honest some collaborations on this album work better than others. But the amazing thing here is that the producer has managed to find a consistent theme and tone from a musical perspective.

Sonic Smash! No, it's not a super-hero warcry. It's the latest from the man responsible for my favorite J-Live songs - DJ Spinna. I wasn't sure initially what "Sonic Smash" meant. After a few listens I now can say that it seems to mean all original and nearly sample-free beats created with Electronic instruments. It's never quite as crazily experimental as, say, what Nosaj Thing does but seems to be in the same sort of mentality of "let's make some really crazy sounds that you can only make on a computer". This might be one area where Hip-Hop is going to progress in. Not that I think anything is wrong with sample-heavy Hip-Hop either but I'm pretty sure copyright law and licensing costs are making it very difficult to make a sample-heavy record.

Since this is a compilation, it's hard to discuss it in terms of cohesive work of art. Musically Spinna nails it and since there's a new artist on every track you'll find that some MC's seem to have more cohesion with the tracks that Spinna is putting down than others. I'm not sure if Spinna intentionally went with so many unknowns, but the big name appearances do not disappoint.

Of the newbies, I was most impressed with Torae ("Lyrics Is Back") and Dynas ("More"). Of the vets Phonte, Shabaam Sahdeeq and Elzhi kill it. The only real disappointing track on the album is the Tiye Pheonix featuring "Still Golden".

Let me break down the standouts:

Lyrics Is Back (Featuring Torae)

Ridiculous beat. More electronic sounds in the back. Sparse, basic drum sounds and Torae ain't kidding when he says the lyrics is back. Peep:

Lotta dudes tell you they're nice
But I'm converying it
And it's a diss
Unless you displaying it
Layin it down
Like a cadaveor
Sharp like I write with a dagger
Matter of fact
The fact of the matter is
My pen an attack
I spit to the sentence it pack
I hope you listening the lyrics is back

Lots of random blips and bleeps in the background and some cool kids singing the chorus. Excellent.

Guaranteed (Featuring Phonte)

Phonte never disapoints me. You can really see the potential here when Spinna works with a more established rapper. I could have done without the R&B singer, but I love the beat. Mellow with piano accents and the distorted circus organ in the background is ill.

More (Featuring Dynas)

Possibly my favorite beat and song on the album. It's almost like something you'd expect to hear on a purely instrumental album. Dynas rides the beat perfectly and there's a real sense of chemistry here.

I hate to say it but in cash we trust
not in the son of god from nazareth

Some politically charged lyrics about how we need more positivity and "More options than being locked up or relocated". Nice.

More Colors (Featuring Elzhi)

I loved the original Colors off of Elzhi's solo release. Everything I loved about that song is turned up here. I love the beat. I can't possibly describe what the instruments that are making the sounds are. Lyrically, Elzhi is ridiculous as usual.

Hustlers with the blackberries and bluetooths
Go purples inside of old schools with the new grooves
Go from painting the town red underneath the night skies
To going to trial telling little white lies
Was piss poor
Though their parents would try
To provide em a silver spoon for this american pie

Melody (Featuring Shabaam Shadeeq and Erik Rico

Gameshowy horns coupled with excellent singing. Sounds like a new Stevie Wonder song. Probably the best produced song on the album. Melody indeed.

Outro

The Outro gets special mention here for being just a ridiculous Soul jam. This is how Hip-Hoppers need to do Soul music.

Give this album a chance. It's not going to hit you right away as being brilliant but for my money, DJ Spinna has put together an album of amazing original Hip-Hop beats using all electronic instruments that is quite unlike most Hip-Hop out there. I'd love to see Spinna produce an entire album with the same mentality with a single artist just to ensure chemistry (I vote for Elzhi) but as it is this is an excellent compilation carried through with a musical focus uncommon to the style.

4.154 out of 5

Track Ratings

1. Intro (feat. Joc Max) (01:01)
2. Elemental (feat. Sputnik Brown) (04:09) 3
3. Lyrics Is Back (feat. Torae) (03:38) 5
4. Lights Out! (feat. John Robinson) (04:32) 4
5. New York (Duck for Cover) (feat. Krym) (03:13) 4
6. Call Me Señor (feat. Señor Kaos) (04:11) 4
7. Get on Down (feat. Fresh Daily, P.CASSO, Homeboy Sandman) (04:00) 4
8. Making Your Way in the World (feat. Breeze Brewin, J-Treds) (03:50) 3
9. Guaranteed (feat. Phonte, Yazarah) (04:04) 5
10. More (feat. Dynas) (04:23) 5
11. More Colors (feat. Elzhi) (04:14) 5
12. Melody (feat. Shabaam Sahdeeq, Erik Rico) (04:58) 5
13. Still Golden (feat. Tiye Phoenix) (04:28) 2
14. Outro (04:53) 5