Here's the thing about hip-hop DJ albums: no matter they're credited to, their success is often dependent on the quality of the guest MCs. It's hard to black out wack verses, no matter how skilled the rhythms behind them. As the label manager for pioneering New York hip-hop label Def Jux, Jesse Ferguson has no shortage of famous friends, and they come to his aid on Side Two, his remarkably sturdy debut as DJ Ese. Ferguson favors dank, grimy beats, built mainly on big rubbery basslines and fleshed out with radio static and snippets of old phonographs. The clammy paranoia that defines the best Def Jux releases turns up all over Side Two. It hovers over the queasy "Build and Construct", wriggles through the slippery funk of "D-Day" and bleeds through Zion I's frantic verse on "Running Man". The blending of beats and verse is perfect, making Side Two the perfect showcase for both Ese as well as his collaborators.
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