“Slow Jamz” (Atlantic)
When rappers discovered ecstasy at the turn of the millennium, critics predicted that hip-hop would be injected with a huge dose of empathy. That never happened—ecstasy became merely another intoxicant to rhyme about à la Cristal and marijuana. Perhaps owing to the exhaustingly combative nature of rap rivalry, however, hip-hop has at last embraced sensitive sonics. One producer—Chicagoan Kanye West—is driving the sound, a blissed-out blend of gauzy orchestrations and sped-up seventies soul samples. With four singles in the top twenty, West makes the scene on his own, but he won’t be alone for long: His most recent production, Twista’s “Slow Jamz,” is his goose-pimply pièce de résistance. With its fluttering hi-hats and refrain of “gonna be . . . gonna be / well well” borrowed from Luther Vandross’s “A House Is Not a Home,” “Slow Jamz” is rapturously warm, almost narcotic in its pleasures. The parallels to early rave music—particularly the quickened pace of the samples—are fascinating. But that’s the stuff of cultural theorists. Everyone else will take “Slow Jamz” for what it is: 2004’s first great single.
The Glimmer Twins
Serie Noire 2 (Eskimo)
Producers of compilation CDs have become so adept at their trade that now no sound or era goes undocumented. Yet the professionalism and unimpeachable taste that marks compilations like New York Noise (dedicated to Gotham’s early-eighties “no wave” moment) is beginning to feel joylessly curatorial. So Belgian D.J. duo the Glimmer Twins’ compilation Serie Noire 2 sounds not just welcome but something like a tectonic shift. On the disc, the Glimmer Twins trace a sensibility—alternately bassy, druggy, and camp—through disparate eras like industrial, acid house, and New Wave. The pair make one astounding connection after another, from the metallic dub of Public Image Ltd. to the Muzak-y, department-store pop of German rockers Rheingold. Where fellow Belgians 2 Many DJs mocked po’-faced D.J. culture with garish mixes of Michael Jackson and Daft Punk, the Glimmer Twins thread their needle through seemingly impossible-to-reconcile material. It’s a secret history of pop that only the savviest historian could write.