Bob once whispered a review into a deaf critic’s ear and videotaped his fingers typing it on a blog.
Disclaimer: This is not a review. I’m no music journalist. For further explanation, click here.
In this day and age of lyrical prowess and bright spotlights, it has become a rare occurrence in hip-hop to find a rap duo equally matched as emcees. In the sea of A Tribe Called Quest’s and Organized Konfusion’s that are the standards of two-man teams in hip-hop, the ever-so-rare Outkast comes as a pleasant surprise to any cynical consumer. Parker & The Numberman’s Clockwork Slang is the latest release from the pair featuring production by local underground powerhouse, Mr. Ridley, showcasing a consistent and innovative sound, with each aspect of the project complementing the other. From the chemistry between the two emcees, to the quality of the production and mix, Clockwork Slang takes us into the stylish and sometimes weird world of Parker & The Numberman.
The EP sets off with Parker Edison opening up over a fade-in drum break with a bongo on the side. One thing that separates both Parker and 1019 from other rhymers is the vocal creativity they employ in their song writing. Parker sets pace on “Octagon Chakra” by giving us a display of just how capable he is with utilizing vocal pitch, cadence, and drawl.
That’s in contrast with the EP’s title track, “Clockwork Slang”, which takes the pitch down a notch and is ultimately minimalist in nature. Even the hook of the song is ad-libbed and nearly wordless. 1019 displays his own rhyme sleight by carrying bars with beefy rhyme schemes, at times juxtaposing Parker’s imagery with straightforward vocab dexterity. While the track does follow a verse/chorus/verse format, both the emcees and producer do enough with their change ups to keep us on our toes.
1019: Going global oval office mogul
California old soul rollin’ solo
roaming soldier omen oh no
soldier on I respond
An interesting aspect that displays the musicality of this project is the appropriate use of DJ Collagey. Too often DJs are either displayed in some sort of virtuosic fashion or as a stand-in for the hook. Ridley, with a great ear for arrangement, uses DJ Collagey in opportune places, incorporating P&T’s official DJ into the permanent record, taking choppy cuts and using them as percussion that fades out, or vocal stabs to raise eyebrows.
Now, this wouldn’t be a responsible “Not a Review” without addressing the interludes. Only Parker & The Numberman could get away with putting out an EP with two interludes and an extended outro, especially when they come off as kinda bizarre. While “I Met a Girl” is basically a humor/steezish piece over what sounds like a Pharrell-informed beat, the real gem here is “Fish Hooks”. The track follows a kind of conversation between P&T discussing past moments of inspiration and the writing process. The beat plays out with an intro, build and eventual chorus section that culminates with an ironic punchline on repeat: “I needed a hook”, essentially making this seemingly unsuspecting respite into an actual song, sans rhyme or singing.
While it’s easy to focus on the emcee’s contribution to the project, the production and engineering take a sizable portion of the front seat. As noted above, much of Ridley’s effort appears minimalist in nature. However, the overall flavor of the project is full and robust. Mid-tempo beats with lots of low-end and plenty of arrangement give the production end warmth and fuzz. The mix-down, on the other hand, cleans up all the ranges of sound by making the vocals sharp, clear and crisp, bringing out the emcees’ vocal ranges while avoiding muddy-ness and simultaneously differentiating instrumentation in the multi-tracking. If Ridley ever falls off the production tip, he certainly has a future as an engineer.
Probably the high point (pun intended) of the EP is the final piece, “Just Jump”, on which P&T take us through an extended metaphor of device and symbolism. On first listen, I was immediately struck with their choice of content (drug use) as being trite. By the time I got to the hook, I was sold by the usage and content, allowing myself to imagine “dollar bill appointments” and their implication. The song purposefully invokes setting, action and desire to inspire a mood that envelops you the same way that the party can. With a sinister and taunting hook that encourages you to “Jump out the window, see if it fly”, the piece takes on a provocative seriousness while still remaining fun and mischievous.
Parker: Parker Fonzarelli, ready set, we
sniff devil’s dandruff and drink some Pepsi
the deep was heavy, uncut then she
flipped and almost died. It’s (diet) coke
Clockwork Slang showcases the eight-eyed duo as heralds of what they’ve pronounced as The Glass Era, with Mr. Ridley driving the bus and DJ Collagey along for the ride, the whole crew provide an outstanding, albeit short, piece of work which this entire town can be proud of. Professional craft and presentation remind of us of how mature all of the artists involved are, proving just how capable the DIY aesthetic has become in the upper echelon of our scene.
You can purchase Parker & The Numberman’s Clockwork Slang at Access Hip-Hop.