By Eric Tweel
It seems odd that a newly formed production team that focuses on a genre symbolic of hood life would choose to go under the name ‘Quakers.’ But this hip-hop collective of over thirty five members (centering around producers Fuzzface, 7-Stu-7 and Katalyst) is in no way affiliated with the ascetic religious movement which its name implies. Rather, the Quakers, being disillusioned with the state of hip-hop today, derive their name from ‘earthquake’ – they’ve come to shake things up.
Being signed to the selective Stones Throw Records, the Quakers bring a lot of force behind them, joining the ranks of legendary producers such as Madlib, Oh No, and the late J Dilla. One of the main producers, Fuzzface – better known as Geoff Barrows, the Portishead instrumentalist – has had a long relationship with the label, and decided to sign with them for his new hip hop project. He credits them with providing a consistent base for serious hip hop in superficial times, saying they have “the right kind of indie mentality.”
The biggest challenge for producer albums is maintaining a balance across the featured emcees, and Quakers does this beautifully. This is made even more extraordinary by the unprecedented number of rappers who appear, many of whom the producers met on MySpace. Beats were sent out to legends of hip-hops golden days like Prince Po and The Pharcyde’s Booty Brown, indie rap titans such as Dead Prez and Phat Kat, and some of StonesThrow’s finest: Aloe Blacc, Guilty Simpson, MED and recent signings Jonwayne and Dave Dub.
Bass and synthesizer combine for a distinctly psychadelic vibe throughout the 40+ track album, including the percussion-based “War Drums” and the insistently energetic “Dark City Lights,” as well as several instrumental tracks like techo-inspired “RIP” and the swinging “Hunnypots of Beeswax.” The lyrics traverse a wide range of themes, from Guilty Simpson’s heavy-hitting multisyllabic ghetto rhymes to the Egyptological verses of Diverse on “Mummy.”
It would be hard to find an album released this year that provides more optimism for the future of alternative hip-hop. Quakers breaks conventions in every way, shortening song length and shifting the focus away from the choruses to the verses. Though not everyone will like all of it, it’s impossible not to find something to like here. This kind of experimentation is exactly the kind of originality that hip-hop needs. Once this ‘quake hits, there’s no going back.
On the Richter Scale: 7.4