The Beat Tape Vol. 2
World-champion turntablist DJ Babu for years has been climbing the rungs toward the top tier of that list. As a founding member of The Beat Junkies, he was a force on the golden-era battle scene and highly influential beat juggler (check his “Blind Alley” routine and take notes) – which undoubtedly aided later in his approach to composition and production. From Super Duck Breaks, to Dilated Peoples’ offerings, to his own Duck Season franchise, Babs has composed an impressive cache of credits. And he seems to refine his sound with each release.
His latest, The Beat Tape Vol. 2, chronicles that Babu bounce sans emcees, delivering to the public an unfiltered aural image of the Cali native. And it’s highly enjoyable.
Beat tapes can be tricky fare; casual Hip Hop critics might overlook them as glorified demos with no true hook to engage the audience. But Babu's Tape thankfully doesn’t fall under this generalization. Instead, it feels like an old-school cassette with a common thread; while listening to it, you can almost picture the smudged fingerprints on each side of the Maxell from being ushered around a high school cafeteria.
The two qualities of The Beat Tape Vol. 2 that immediately stand out are Babu’s ever-evolving range and ear for samples. And there are no pauses between the 39 beats, so the project keeps heads nodding as it shifts gears, all the while maintaining a consistent soulful theme.
There are rousing cuts like “Finally” and the rejoicing, cymbal-heavy “Earthfire.” Jump to “Strive to be a Godfather” and “Forever” for thick soul; the latter a Hall & Oates-powered track boasting triumphant horns, melodic keys and clap-along snares. Two more highlights include the drum-driven “Lil Juanito” and “Phlip the Track,” Babu’s interpretation of RZA’s seminal GZA production, “Liquid Swords.”
The ivories play a pivotal role in Babs’ production – something that has become more noticeable in recent work. Check the dimmed keys on the stripped-down Cali ode “Gyeah,” or “Reneg,” which features contrasting, layered piano work over soft drums. Cool keys also open doors on “Hold the Mark.”
I can see 39 tracks being too much for some, especially without any vocal accompaniment. But with nearly all of them coming in at under two minutes in duration, it’s difficult to knock this Tape for length. But again, instrumental tapes aren’t for everyone.
Babu has become a quality beatsmith without sacrificing his internal foundation as a deejay; this offering is evidence – an exhibition of which icons like Marley, Jay, Pete and Preemo can surely be proud.
Purchase The Beat Tape 2 by DJ Babu