Producer-driven albums can be tricky to execute, especially if your name isn’t Flying Lotus, Madlib or J-Dilla. The producer bold enough to let his beats talk better have kick-ass instrumentals—-or kick-ass vocalists—-on hand.
Luckily Soulful!, a resident producer of the D.C.-based InnerLoop imprint, has both. On Mumbo Sauce and Drumbreaks, the young artist not only creates a richly percussive soundscape, he gets some of D.C.’s best MCs (Muggsy Malone, D.O.E. C.I.G.A.P.O.M., and others) to lend high-quality verses to his journey through yesteryear. The concept album, which pays homage to 1970s soul music, is a vocal/instrumental mash-up of finely chopped samples, head-nodding cosmic grooves, and greasy funk that showcases an impressive musical palate.
From the album’s all-in feel, it’s apparent that the producer wants to push himself to the fore of D.C.’s best-known producers—-a small fraternity occupied by Oddisee, Best Kept Secret,and Judah, among others. Throughout Drumbreaks, Soulful! experiments with driving rhythms, creating an energetic brand of triumphant boom bap that sometimes flirts with abstraction. From its cover (an interpretation of The Ohio Players‘ Honey LP) to an unabashed Afro feel, the album places the effervescent grittiness of ’70s Blaxploitation films in a hip-hop cast. Soulful! even incorporates interview footage from Truck Turner himself on “Ike Hayes,” a marching beat with prominent drums wafting throughout the melody.
On “Mind Right” Soulful! spins a soothing web of violins and flutes before bringing in cascading drums, over which X.O. rhymes about perseverance and achieving greatness: “Add up the promises, this is not a threat/And I’mma shine by any means necessary, Malcolm X,” X.O. raps at the end of his second verse. “Some Other Ship,” meanwhile, is a quirky piece of unadulterated funk. Although Drumbreaks is mostly stuck in the ’70s, other decades sneak in: the ’90s, for example, on”Welcome Back,” a fleeting, piano-laced jazz swing evocative of high-top fades and Cross Colours apparel.
Above all, the pace and sequence resonate loudest, with each song falling effortlessly into the next. Simply put: Mumbo Sauce and Drumbreaks is an incredibly dope concept album, the likes of which I haven’t heard in the D.C. region. Go here to download the album for free.