Rogue Sounds: “The Yield” Yields a Bounty of Beats
Though the world at large is pretty clear about the distinction, locally, the line between reggae and hip hop is a blurry one. It’s a fluid definition you can see on display in The Yield, the latest from The Dream State, a collaboration between Ashland-based emcee Hi-Pressure Sodium and Portlander Christobal Fumeo, which was released online in early July.
Though there isn’t much reggae, or even dub on the album, HPS is a frequent guest performer with local reggae acts like The Escort Service, and embraces many of reggae’s lyrical theme throughout The Yield’s 17 tracks. Most notoriously: that newly-legal pot that the kids are so into. It’s hardly exclusive to reggae, but it’s present even in the group’s name, The Dream State.
The Yield opens with a simple major key beat and piano riff called “Opulence.” As the lyrics come, the beat takes a turn for the minor key with a swooning synth bass and a snakelike melody that rises in tension as the song chugs along. It’s a fast rap style, with the vocals low in the mix, letting the smooth synths stand centerstage.
Moving forward, there are piano riffs, jazz beats and wide-ranging lyrics about everything from Fannie Mae to dropping acid with Charles Dickens. The songs eschew the minimalist east coast and hardcore hip hop style for beats that are equal parts peppy R&B, and EDM-dub hybrids . Some of the songs feel a little cluttered, like the beats were written to be standalone instrumental tracks rather than droning backbeats that let the vocals add the rhythmic and melodic complexity. But those moments don’t dominate.
The album’s most interesting track is number 10, “Stutter Step.” It is a great psychedelic style rap in the vein of Kool Keith’s black elvis space raps, or some of the noisy experimental tracks by The Roots. It moves fast, losing the boom bap, opening stream of consciousness by the bucketful for a track that is as much a piece of spoken word sound art as it is a hip hop track.
Another interesting track is number 7, “Calibrate.” It’s slow-motion bounce and lazily-filtered synth is a great head-bobbing space-out track.
Track 9, “Everyday,” is another standout track. It has more austere instrumentation with a simple reverb-drenched bassline and the distant sound of a few reggae chords on the keyboard. It keeps moving and still has room to breathe.
Considering just how easy computers have made it to record and release really terrible hip hop, The Yield is a breath of fresh—if weed-laced—air, and is a local hip hop album totally worth your time and money.