Sunday, 28 January 2018

Album: Andy Cooper - The Layered Effect

Andy Cooper - The Layered Effect

Info: 'The Layered Effect' by US rapper/producer Andy Cooper offers a punchy reminder of the creative fun to be had in digging for breaks, stringing up loops and layering up stratas of sound. Brimming full of delightful inflexions from the world of Jazz, Easy Listening, Film Soundtracks and Hollywood voices, it’s a perfectly stitched sound patchwork that pays loving hommage to the classic, funky days of early rap. A touching testimony to the joys of Hip Hop then and now.

More than just the skinny white dude who's into old school beats, Andy Cooper has won his stripes after a twenty year stint with Hip Hop trio Ugly Duckling. For Andy, rap is a noble form. He’s a wordsmith extraordinaire, snappy and audacious, tipping his hat "to all the microphoners who still bring that dedication and expertise to their craft".

Andy Cooper is one of the trio behind West Coast Hip-Hop and boom bap collective Ugly Duckling who formed in 1993 and released their debut LP in 2000. Now Cooper releases his sophomore solo album The Layered Effect and it's my favourite international album release of 2018 so far. Although hip-hop and rap have been a staple of my musical diet since I was 12 years old and hooked on The Beastie Boys' Check Your Head and Ill Communication as well as House of Pain, and later on Public Enemy and N.W.A., a strong yearning for the origins of rap surged after seeing 1983 documentary Style Wars and hearing its amazing soundtrack. 

That journey continues, and while rap artists from before the early 90's had a treasure trove of samples to dive into, with the Beastie Boys taking it to another level with everything from Jimi Hendrix, Bob Dylan, James Brown to Billy Joel, copyright issues and legal cases drained the reservoir almost overnight. Since then sampling has become a fraught exercise to the point of almost non-existence. Cooper's The Layered Effect harks back to those golden days and does its best to circumnavigate those waters, and it is a joyous homage to the origins of the genre.

The album starts explosively with the incredibly punchy 'Here Comes Another One' (feat. Blabbermouf), the jazz bass, the beats, the scratches, the rapping, it's 1980 all over again and I'm in heaven, talk about a striking opening salvo. Whisked of to a disco-funk inferno the chaos continues on the high-tempo swings and loops of 'Get On That', Cooper may infuse his lyrics and vocals with a nice dose of humour but when it comes to sound he is deadly serious about crafting tightly knit tracks, and it can be exasperating in a good way.

We then come to 'The Perfect Definition', ear-sauce central, a satirical look at the stereotype of contemporary popular hip-hop which begs the question, "what should true rap music sound like?", I think Cooper deals with that query all across The Layered Effect. I'm not going to lie, I really enjoy 'Do The AndyPuppet', but whilst the chimes on the chorus feel infuriatingly irritating, I can't stop listening, the inventiveness of creating a rap song for kids works so well, and it's a trip into the strange to say the least.

Smooth as funk is 'Last Of A Dying Breed', a little bit of a Fun Lovin' Criminals Come Find Yourself vibe in the sound. Cooper takes a stab at the old school rappers who cock their eyes at modern music whom he refers to as the Last of the Mohicans and summarises with the lines; "Whining that they rude and they tryin' to diss, but dude they don't even really know you exist, it's not your time no more, hate say it you're a dinosaur, and even the great zealots who walked in grace, soon became relics locked in a case, you had your opportunity to testify, come on step aside, brother let it die...."

It doesn't get any more old school than 'Can't Be Satisfied', step into Cooper's time machine for a whirl into bone fide hip-hop beats and horns. It's stripped down, sometimes less is more if you want authenticity. 'B-Boy Blues' opens with a delta, well, blues intro, recalling the title of the Beastie Boys' 'B-Boy Boullaibaisse' from Paul's Boutique where they sampled Johnny Cash. It swaggers between hazy bursts of slick guitar progressions and pumping be-bop. 

Next track 'Sizzling Hot' is a beast of a song, a dance-floor filler with highly addictive hooks that launch you off into the space, a call to action by Cooper, it's time to party, and party hard like a boss. 'Rick Said So' is an entertaining and wry homage to the founder of Def Jam Records, Rick Rubin who produced iconic rap artists Run D.M.C., Public Enemy, LL Cool J and of course, The Beastie Boys, and you can certainly hear some of those acts shining through on the opening. 

The Layered Effect sees Andy Cooper get things off his chest with humour, pays tribute to the genre of rap music like a historical timeline, ideas you feel that swam around in his head for years and needed to be converted to music. It's a triumph in that sense, and a must hear album for both loose and dedicated fans of hip-hop and rap.

The Layered Effect is available via Rocafort Records website and on all major streaming platforms now.

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