London turntablist DJ Yoda’s career thus far has been an exercise in banishing hip-hop’s more po-faced impulses in favor of a hit-and-run, cut-and paste approach. As his name suggests, he’s not above weaving crowd-pleasing pop-cultural references into the mix, even at the risk of sounding gimmicky: his compilations have included 2009′s How To Cut & Paste: Country Edition, which dropped Johnny Cash, Hank Williams and the theme from TV’s The Littlest Hobo alongside Nas and Treacherous Three.
But when it comes to turntable chops and scratching – not to mention deep knowledge of the hip-hop form – Yoda is among the best. He plays it relatively straight on his second album proper, abandoning the kids’-TV themes and comedy samples but keeping a lunatic, scattershot approach and a mood of playful, unabashed vibrancy. The swollen-ego stomp of “Charlie Sheen,” voiced by rapper Greg Nice, evokes the fallen star’s coked-up mania with its swaggering, muscular beats, tempo-changing dashes and Nice’s bellow of “Don’t tell me how to spend my motherfuckin’ money.” The deluge of Eastern samples and licks on “Big Trouble In Little China,” meanwhile, treads a fine line between exoticism and Orientalism.
Yoda’s gonzo approach yields some real triumphs, not least on “Happy,” a bittersweet two-step ballad sung by Boy George that reminds you that beneath the make-up, George Dowd possesses a deeply soulful croon – older and smokier than in his Culture Club heyday, but more affecting because of it. Better still is “U No Likey That,” which throws Roots Manuva and Kid Creole & The Coconuts in a studio together and turns out a rattling carnival rumble.
Coherency would be a long-shot, given the avalanche of guests and styles, but the grab-bag of inspired tracks still deliver 50 minutes of solid thrills. By tempering his inclination to play cute, Yoda proves himself a producer with a keen, inventive ear.