You may associate recent Detroit with the plunging beats and aquatic basslines of techno but there’s no earthly reason why the Motor City can’t throw up a deeply fried slab of hip hop. With A Piece Of The Geto, ZGTO, a collaboration between ZelooperZ and Shigeto, that is exactly what you get. It may not be southern but this album is a frazzled collection indeed: claustrophobic, minimal but tripped out, seemingly one-step to the side of whatever else is around it. Whatever the recording process actually was, it certainly comes over from start to finish as a very fragrant affair.
In UK terms, its closest bedfellows would be the Wild Bunch and assorted Bristol shenanigans gone by but, if anything, it takes things further down that dubby rabbit hole. Perhaps the beats do even take note of Detroit’s more left-field entries into the market place since the late ’80s. Listening to the drums on a track like ‘Hollow‘ is akin to listening to a piece of Underground Resistance on 33rpm as opposed to 45; rolling around stoned but nonetheless crisp. Stick a gruff but honeyed rap on top and you have the whole album in a nutshell. If that doesn’t sound appealing, it probably should.
Whilst A Piece Of The Geto is not quite an absolute revolution, it does manage that rarest of things: fills a hole you were not particularly aware existed in the first place. Artists like Tricky may have extensively explored similar ideas but this confident and laconically put together album shifts things further down the moody and eclectic branch line. It certainly isn’t as self-consciously, “I’m mental me“, as he sometimes want to be.
Curiously, a track that arguably pays homage to Detroit’s recent rap history is also the one that feels most out of place. ‘Remedy‘ has the hyper-vocal stylings familiar to fans of Eminem but feels a little forced. Like a very deliberate curve ball which doesn’t fit in with the other ten tracks. Fine enough but the zoned-out, more lethargic vocals elsewhere are far more appealing.
Whilst those vocals are excellent and manage somehow to be expressive and at times pugnacious despite the horizontal vibes, it’s the beats and music by Shigeto that most impress. They certainly bear favourable comparison with his instrumental solo releases and are avant-garde without trying too hard.
A fine piece of work from these two. Whilst noting its links to others it really does stand out as an exciting direction for hip hop to be taking. Now more than ever it seems, to use the terrible cliche, rules are there to be broken…and are so. Thrillingly and oozingly in this case.