Thursday, February 18, 2010

Notoriety - The Toast Mixtape EP

A few friends of mine have been recording tracks for a few months under the name Notoriety, and after sharing tidbit after tidbit, they finally cobbled 10 tracks together for The Toast EP, which they released Monday evening. Now I've never been one to shamelessly plug the music of a friend for that reason alone, but Notoriety certainly do enough here to rise above the ranks of the Mixtape scrapheap.

The most striking element on the mixtape is the inspired production that culls influence from all over the musical landscape. The heavy bass of the opening bars of Gaining Control are standard hip-hop fare, but the flighty strings and chopped vocals draw favorable comparisons to master samplers The Avalanches. From here, Notoriety shrug off standard hip-hop orchestration and prove that a good beat can inspire from anywhere. Roughnecks features furious organ chords that give things a rock throwback feeling, Reasons Why has an undeniable Motown-inspired groove and some of the strongest lyrical performances of the whole mixtape. These are great, but the song that really had me floored was Under My Thumb that cops the Rolling Stones chorus as the beat, and maintains the playful xylophone and snappy electric guitar. Three fantastic, breakneck verses do justice to an otherwise untouchable song, a serious compliment.

While some verses strain and stretch to follow the beat, the wordplay and delivery is consistently strong throughout, and it's impressive to see how effortlessly each voice adjusts to match the eclectic production. In addition, many of the soul-influenced choruses stand head and shoulders above typical throwaway R&B garbage. With so many mixtapes that shine in a single capacity but disappoint everywhere else, it's refreshing to hear something that feels so polished across the board.

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