BEAUTY AND THE BEAT
Like most good indie hip-hop acts, Edan has a seemingly bottomless musical curiosity, but the Boston DJ/MC also has an edge over the competition: He's willing to dive headlong into musty '60s and '70s psychedelia for trippy passages and oddball breakbeats that probably had little chance to appear on a rap record before.
Edan mines some unlikely sources for his new rap CD.
"Beauty and the Beat," his follow-up to 2002's solid "Primitive Plus" -- which was far more conventional by indie rap standards -- is an all-too-brief head trip that unites old-school hip-hop's aesthetics with a previous generation's sense of grooviness. But instead of coming across like a weak "Austin Powers" gag or a quasi-intellectual gimmick, it breathes life into both sides of the equation.
The key is Edan's devotion to maintaining a gritty, surreal tone throughout, as if all the samples were tumbling out of a cheap record player and echoing across an old high school gym. And he adds to the mystery by refusing to identify any of his sonic pillagings -- the CD booklet makes no attempt to say where all the sounds come from.
Against all that intrigue, the rapping seems almost secondary, but Edan himself and guests Mr. Lif, Percee P, Insight and Dagha all manage to deliver their rhymes with enough attitude to avoid being devoured by all the weirdo rock, funk and jazz that is swirling around. They manage to succeed for 34 minutes, but "Beauty and the Beat" definitely gives the impression that Edan has other people-eaters to unleash.
-- Joe Warminsky