The Saturday Nite Agenda

The Saturday Nite Agenda

-

RJD2

Album: The Horror
Label: Definitive Jux
-
Album: The Saturday Nite Agenda
Label: Grit

Eminem, 50 Cent, Jay-Z, and other multiplatinum performers may represent the public face of hip-hop, but rappers still turn to the likes of Dr. Dre, The Neptunes, DJ Premier, and Timbaland when they need a hit. Good production has also saved many a lackluster vocal turn in independent hip-hop, where producers like El-P, Madlib, and RJD2 have developed cults of personality to rival those of the mainstream production royalty. For much of the genre's duration, production has been viewed chiefly as hip-hop's sturdy backbone, but it's increasingly recognized as an art form in itself. Building on RJD2's cult-hero status, the new EP The Horror collects B-sides, instrumentals, and remixes, including new versions of its predecessor Deadringer's three vocal tracks. Especially notable is "June (Remix)," a new version of Deadringer's standout song: a haunting, angry, unsentimental elegy for a deceased father that works the same frayed nerves and jagged emotions as Eminem's most intense work. Ten tracks of decaying beauty and dirty elegance, The Horror reaffirms RJD2's standing as one of the most gifted and original producers in underground hip-hop. As lush and listener-friendly as The Horror is disturbing, Soul Supreme's The Saturday Nite Agenda is much more characteristic of independent producer compilations, as the retro-minded Supreme hedges his bets with such dependable MCs as KRS-One, Planet Asia, Big Daddy Kane, and Pete Rock. Trafficking in the looped-up soul that has been all the rage since Jay-Z's The Blueprint, Supreme here suggests an indie version of mainstream hitmaker Just Blaze. Deftly playing to multiple streams of nostalgia, the lush, commercial Saturday Nite Agenda lives up to its cinematic title with blaxploitation soundbites and dialogue that sets the mood for the entire album. A guest list heavy on big names from rap's golden age plays to nostalgia for a more recent era, while songs about Mom ("Still Searchin'"), hip-hop ("Queen"), and movies (the title track) smartly exploit some of the most resonant and popular themes the genre has to offer. Though both albums are dominated by beats, The Saturday Nite Agenda and The Horror have wildly divergent goals and moods. The latter seeks to capitalize on the momentum of RJD2's red-hot career, while the former aims to establish Soul Supreme as a gifted new production talent. On their own divergent terms, both succeed.

More Music Review