WARR Culture Blogger David Evans has previously taken us through a night with Raekwon, now he puts you up on an innovative producer who’s managing to blend the old with the new while also forging new paths for beat fanatics to follow.
By David Evans, Regal Radio
Bubbling up through the underground hip hop scenes of Detroit and Chicago and now chilling out in London with the hip set in Europe, one Terrel Wallace has become equal parts trendsetter, curator and motivator for a worldwide community of beat makers and producers who are either standing in awe of the man’s skills or desperately trying to catch up.
Tall Black Guy’s production is an a grown up incarnation of hip hop — his music secure in its standing with the culture’s past, mining it for wisdom and technique while also always putting a step forward, pushing listeners to something equally fly and thought-provoking, you don’t have to trade off one for the other with Tall Black.
If you came up in the 90’s, Tall Black’s music will likely provide moments of refreshment among more abrasive and clunky or repetitive offerings that are heard by wider audiences. Tall Black provides fresh hip hop ingredients — knocking drums infused with jazzy horns or catchy, often recognizable samples, all layered on a sophisticated bed of sound.
This is far from the first time a hip hop producer has flirted with jazz — A Tribe Called Quest’s 1991 classic The Low End Theory was heavily jazz influenced as well as Guru’s Jazzmatazz series, obviously. No I.D is known for tracks that could fill up a stadium today but his early work with Common, starting with his debut Can I Borrow a Dollar?, was most often smoothed out. You also cant forget about chart-topping singles like Queen Latifah’s “U.N.I.T.Y,” Edo G.’s “Be a Father to Your Child”– the list goes on.
Tall Black instills a level of versatility to his production that allows it to fit well within the evolving needs of heads who may have grew up with the earlier tracks and are in search of something that evokes similar feelings without making them feel old — Tall Black’s stuff can be listened to in conjunction with the verses of your favorite up and coming rapper or it could be the background music at a four-star restaurant.
As he moves forward and gains more status in the game, the question for the producer becomes, how does Tall Black Guy identify himself ? As an experimental jazz artist? A hip hop producer? A potential pioneer in the convergence of World music and hip hop? I would like to believe that Tall Black’s talent and wide range allows him to be one or the other at any given time, or both when necessary. Not many producers have dropped a set of brazillian jazz-influenced beats while also maintaining high profile placements on albums like Skyzoo’s A Dream Deferred over the past year.
With the occasional single on Soundcloud or Bandcamp, Tall Black never fails to leave me in a state of aural ecstasy (you can think I’m overstating the man’s skills, but listen to his remake of “Thriller” with vocalist Renee Dion — if that song doesn’t give you the chills, you must be deaf).
“Sweet Europe,” off his Mini Chops Therapy single pack features a wide medley of sounds including chants, guitar strumming and rhythmic underlying drums with and high-pitched vocal sample that makes me want to dance Samba for some reason, even though I haven’t the first clue of how to. Paired with “Sweet Europe,” “Love to the World,” is a beat comprised of a simple background drum, vocals to underscore the mantra-like title of the beat and abstract sound effects (a baby’s cry?) while a piano sample plays underneath, so sedate that repeated listening may cause narcolepsy. This ain’t Turn Up music, but it could set just about any other mood to make you feel good.
For The Breakdancers (Therapy Chop 115)
A recent Soundcloud revelation, “For the Breakdancers” is a very smooth concoction of drums and horns based off a George Duke sample. This type of beat is a prime example of how Tall Black’s beats does for the ear what a fine champagne does for the palate. “For the Breakdancers”‘ production has a mid-90’s classy yet urban feel, something that might feel in place during an episode of Living Single or as New York Undercover’s intro music.
Mon Amie De’troit (feat. Ozay Moore)
The first single off of Tall Black’s 8 Miles to Moenart, his first official solo release, which is scheduled to come out soon on First World Records. This tribute to his home town of Detroit invokes Common’s “I Used to Love H.E.R.” as Detroit rapper Ozay Moore lays out an allegorical tale of a woman who symbolizes the city while finger snaps, drums, news clips on the decline of Detroit’s auto industry and continuous harmonizing female voice moves you through the track. As a fellow former Detroiter, I find “Mon Amie De’troit” a stylized, yet sad ode of Detroit’s great past and subsequent decline, one still being dealt with as the city fights on.
Follow David Evans on Twitter @davidevans9