LABEL: HUMBLE BEAST RECORDS
RELEASE DATE: JUNE 19, 2012
One of the more frustrating aspects of being a reviewer is hearing so much hip-hop that sounds unoriginal. It seems a lot of artists play it safe and stick to easy formulas that have worked in that past for other artists. Beautiful Eulogy is a breath of fresh air with their debut title, Satellite Kite.
Now, just because this is Beautiful Eulogy’s debut album does not mean that the artists making-up Beautiful Eulogy are rookies. Braille, Odd Thomas, and Courtland Urbano, who comprise this Portland, Oregon-based group, have been making a name for themselves as solo artists long before anyone knew them as a collective. For example, Courtland Urbano, previously known as Xperiment, has produced for quite a few hip-hop artists, fared well in numerous beat battles, and released multiple instrumental beat albums. Odd Thomas released a solo album in 2006 and also has some production credits under his belt; anyone remember a little album called Art Ambidextrous? And then there is Braille, who already has an extensive catalogue that includes seven solo albums and a tour with the late James Brown.
The first thing that I noticed while listening to Satellite Kite was that it really has its own sound. It is evident early on that this is not just some vocals over a pre-produced beat, but it is an actual musical arrangement. Unconventional drum patterns, sometimes haunting instrumentals, and other sounds that I can’t quite put my finger on make for a distinctly unique and enthralling listening experience. I also really enjoyed the nuances certain tracks had such as the sound of water dripping on “Anchor.” It’s the little things that keep catching my attention and wondering how they came up with them.
The two emcees, Odd Thomas and Braille are outstanding on this album. Stylistically, Braille sounds nothing like his previous records but adapts well to the more worshipful focus of Beautiful Eulogy. I have been a long-time fan of his work, so I expected him to be great, but I’ll be honest, Odd Thomas really surprised me. I heard his solo album, The Divine Use of Animosity and Ridicule a few years ago and thought he definitely had potential, but I did not expect him to do what he has done on Satellite Kite. His flow is so smooth that he makes it sound effortless even when he is rapping fast. Both of these emcees meshed well together and maintained great chemistry throughout the project.
The features were also a plus. There seemed to be just the right amount of guest appearances to add something to the album, but not so much that it seemed overbearing or crowded. Lee Green adds his gritty vocals on “Surrender” and is the only other emcee on the project. Propaganda, who is also an extremely gifted emcee by-the-way, sticks to his other passion on “Wonderful” and provides the listener with some of that gospel-saturated poetry so many have come to enjoy. Then there are the smooth vocals of Josh Garrels, who I really enjoyed on “Anchor,” and Catalina Bellizzi whose style on “Take It Easy” is wonderfully eccentric.
I suppose it’s easy to tell that I loved Satellite Kite, but I cannot help it. I love to see hip-hop used creatively to communicate weighty truth. For fans of hip-hop, this is almost a no-brainer. For those that are not fans of hip-hop, I would still implore you to check out this album. I am sure there is something on it that will peak your interest. And since you can download it for free at humblebeast.com, there is really no reason not to listen to this album.