Marc Mac, of drum ‘n’ bass legends 4 Hero has used his Visioneers guise to pay tribute to the roots of hip-hop — the music that was scratched and sampled by the originators of the style. Hipology features loving and lavish recreations of ’70s soul, funk, jazz-funk and spiritual jazz, alongside a hefty dose of Afro-Latin groove. Oh, and a Stereolab cover.
“Come and Play in the Milky Night” is, surprisingly, not much of a sore thumb. After all, Stereolab is every thinking hip-hopper’s favorite experimental indie band, from Pharrell to ?uestlove to Tyler, the Creator. Here, it’s smoothed out into something that could be from Air’s Moon Safari, buzzing vocoder and all: no bad thing in itself, but a bit simplistic next to some of the more sumptuous arrangements and rhythmic fancies on offer elsewhere.
There are covers, too, of the “Shaft in Africa” theme (brilliantly done), “Apache” (neat, but so close to Michael Viner’s take it verges on pointlessness), and Ahmad Jamal’s Afro-jazz “Swahililand” (nice, but losing too much of the rawness of the original). In fact, the best tracks are those written by Mac himself. “Ice Cream on my Kicks” stands out for its Innervisions-era Stevie Wonder analogue keys and lolloping beats, while “Jungle Green Outlines” with its galloping tempo, shimmering strings and massed horns is a party jam for the finest of fine times.
Several tunes feature rapping, which, while faultless in delivery and construction, stick to tried-and-tested backpack-rap topics: how nice it was being a kid back in the day (“Back in Time” featuring Baron & TRAC) and how it’s good to be true to yourself and not taken in by the rap industry (“Oil & Water” featuring Notes To Self). The former is done with real joy and sense of the tensions between innocence and experience; the latter frankly gets a bit wearying. But for any over-earnest or over-slick moments, this is an excellent record, something that you’ll find becomes very clear as summer comes.