Both Q-Tip, the jazzy helium-voiced frontman of A Tribe Called Quest, and Loer Velocity, an underground rapper from Yonkers, have the term `Renaissance’ in the titles of their new albums. (Although at this time, Q-Tip’s album has alternately been billed as both Live at the Renaissance and Relive the Moment). So what’s the deal with the sudden resurgence of the term? In Europe, in the 15th and 16th centuries, the term signified a `rebirth,’ a return of artistry that studied and imitated nature. Rap has always done the latter, bringing to the forefront the `hip-hop’ culture in its various forms from block parties and braggadocio to the realities of gang lifestyles. The European Renaissance also saw the rise of patronage, that is to say, privately funded art. With the decrease in sales of CDs and the ever-blurring increase of technology, I’ve always wondered if music was inching its way toward this very concept. Maybe Tip and Loer know something that we don’t.
Ready for a Renaissance is Loer Velocity’s first real solo CD. He’s released a mixtape of sorts, a few vinyl singles and some scattered songs on compilations, but this is his first major brouhaha. After a quick bipolar `blues-man’ intro, Loer Velocity gets down to the business of studying and imitating nature. “Nuth’n” begins with a roll call, similar to hip-hop tracks done by the aforementioned Tribe, and the similarities don’t end there. First, there’s the jazz based backgrounds, then there’s the almost spot-on monotone female voice between verses that will remind everyone of Midnight Marauders. He then gets down to the nitty gritty of the rap game in one of his singles, “Song I Sing.” “I’m the shit and I know it, I clap my hands to show it.” Loer starts out strong and doesn’t let up, rapping with finesse over a dramatic chorus of voices.
In “Crash Test Dummy,” featuring guest rapper Poison Pen, Loer claims to be “speaking wise words like Confucius,” and that he does. Some of his lyrics are motivational clichés such as “Go hard or go home,” but some are inspired such as the words in “World of Poverty” including “hard times hit worse than Hurricane Erica.” Loer covers politics, society and reality in the true Renaissance way, by holding a mirror up to life and letting it take a good hard look. “So High” reminds me of the poorly made hip-hop mixes I used to cobble together in college. Rather than using a sample from an old Sesame Street record like I used to do, Loer has a voice-over artist sounding like a children’s record narrator, urging the listeners to roll a big fatty. Sweet.
As to my claim in the intro, I’ve always wondered whether music will become privately funded. Artists are finding unique and creative ways to make money with their music. Just look at Devendra Banhart lending a song to a beer company, albeit an employee-owned brewery. It seems like we’re moving closer and closer to direct contact with the consumers and further away from big label marketing. I, for one, don’t think it’s a bad thing, but I’m not sure how the patronage angle would work. Can you imagine a Veruca Salt-esque teenage girl asking her rich daddy to pay for recording and distribution of a band’s new CD. I can hear it now, “Daddy, make Green Day put out a new album!” In a way, that’s how underground artists make their bones anyway, by spreading the word themselves and having fans come to their shows, buying music at the merch table. One thing’s for sure, Loer Velocity is worth the patronage if it ever comes to that.
A Tribe Called Quest- Midnight Marauders
Mos Def- Black on Both Sides
Aesop Rock- Labor Days