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|Written by Mike Cullen|
|Wednesday, 13 June 2012 13:19|
I'm a big fan of the development process of an album. Every artist or band does it differently, and the way that each goes through the creative steps of releasing a song, EP, or a full-length album is incredibly interesting. What grabbed my attention about Extra Science was that it was never meant to be an album. It had originally been intended as a one-time freestyle live performance between emcee Fraction and producer Fresh Kils, but that round-robin event was so well received and the creative connection so strong that the two rappers took to the studio and cut this eleven track album.
Full disclosure before we go any further: I'm not a big fan of the rap genre and, aside from the likes of very mainstream acts like Jay-Z, Kanye West, and Eminem, typically won't listen to the genre. One would argue this oversight colours my judgement in writing this article, but I like to think it gives me a more critical eye.
The first thing I noted when listening to Extra Science was that it appeared to be a rather tight album. Eleven fully realized songs, no interludes, and no filler. Too often in the rap genre, there's too many songs that are too long, and the tracklist is peppered with interludes that really don't enhance the overall feel of the album. The other notable feature of the album was the lack of mainstream samples. The rap and hip-hop genres have always been about sampling or borrowing from other songs and genres. In recent years the use of samples has gotten to the point of gluttony and actually demonstrates a total lack of originality (somewhat ironic since that very attribute was considered original, creative, and new 10 years ago).
My first impression of the album was positive; Fraction raps in a way that is clear and concise, while Fresh Kils' production values compliment the raps well, utilizing a sound that is both a bit retro and a bit contemporary without sounding repetitive or, worse yet, derivative. In terms of Fraction's raps, there are far too many rappers who are more concerned about the speed of their rhymes and the rhyming couplets than making themselves actually understandable. There were few points in the album, if any, where I questioned what I heard. Fraction and Fresh Kils also did quite a bit to break down other stereotypes in the genre. Fraction sounded as though he was rapping from real life experience, but it wasn't about money and hoes, it wasn't violent or overly crude -- attributes that I typically find a big turn-off when I listen to music of any genre but rap/hip-hop in particular. So, as far as first impressions go, I was not only surprised but willing to give it that crucial second in-depth listen.
Extra Science is at times a straight-out rap album, other times chill. Overall, it's an album that works well on a Saturday night in preparation for a night out. It's slick with productions that actually mask the fact that the album was not planned in the first place. This remark is certainly no condemnation on the project by any means, but, listening to the album, the sound leads the listener to believe that the tracks were written and recorded over a longer period of time, as is the usually case for production, and not a result of a roundtable rap session that was recorded at a later date.
One of the more chill tracks, "Hold On," (also featuring emcee Speck) stands out as one of the best tracks on what's already an exceptionally well put together collection of songs. It's the type of song that really showcases the vocal abilities of all involved; the harmonies are tight and the raps slowed down just enough that it creates a slick groove. For those who enjoy a more old school sounding rap/hip-hop sound, "Personal Foul" and "Enemies" have that vibe that makes it feel just a little bit retro, while keeping it fresh all at once. These two tracks stood out for me in particular.
For what was never meant to actually be an album, Extra Science works incredibly well on more than one level. Its true gift is the ability of Fraction and Fresh Kils to translate something that was meant to be a spontaneous creation into a fully realized, exceptional project. Extra Science meshes the best of rap/hip-hop with a bit of chill/r&b that sounds contemporary and retro without sounding dated. The album to some may sound like just another collaboration album, but the genesis of this album is what makes it truly special; Fraction and Fresh Kils has given us an honest album that doesn't require rebellion or clichés to make it a fantastic piece of work. Extra Science can be purchased on Fraction's website and is available now.
An Ottawa native, Mike is a public servant by day, and a self-professed music and comic book junkie the rest of the time. He also contributes to the Local Tourist Ottawa blog and his random music, comic book and culture musings can be read on /scribbles.
Tags: adventure, extra science, fraction, fresh kils, it aint all about the hoes, music, profile, rap, review, slick groove