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DJ Language - Real Music for Real People

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Artist: DJ Language

Album: Real Music for Real People

Label: BBE

Review date: Aug. 29, 2005

Amidst the milieu of DJ culture, it would seem that one prevailing notion rings true: context is everything. What separates one DJ from another is the style in which vast arrays of beats and melodies are strung together into contextual relevance. Hip-hop mixtape DJ’s (Green Lantern, Clue, etc.) present new contexts through flurried cuts dotted with exclusive freestyles and battle rhymes. Producer-DJ’s (Diplo, Z-Trip, etc.) challenge existing contexts with mixes spiraled with mash-ups of both the popular and the obscure, flexing production chops and often an encyclopedic knowledge of music. Then, there are concept mixes, the likes of DJ Language’s latest effort, Real Music for Real People, a 21-track journey through what the Chicago native considers “soulful.”

It might seem at first that Language (of NYC’s Negroclash parties and mixtapes of the same name) might have set a lofty goal for himself here. But as Negroclash disciples and Language fans alike already know, bringing it all together in a way that makes sense is his forte.

A self-described “evangelist for good music,” Language had his work cut out for him on RMFRP. The relevance of concept mixes has always seemed tenuous at times, and they have never enjoyed a long shelf life among even the well-initiated listeners. Yet, there’s something entirely relevant in what Language is doing here. The mix boasts “a non-mainstream experience” and Language does his homework, digging more than an arm’s reach back into his crates for tracks like Koushik’s “Be With” and Maurice Fulton’s remix of Beanfield’s “Close to You.” Another standout is Roy Ayers’ “Tarzan,” released earlier this year on another BBE compilation. While the track doesn’t cover any new ground in the Ayers canon, it does add a refreshingly driving rhythm to the mix.

Language’s selection and arrangement follows a deliberate progression that unfurls varied hip-hop, R&B, house, and downtempo in a palatable manner. In an early track, “War,” Nas shrugs off clichéd rap bravado for a laidback allegorical flow that gives a nod to vintage Slick Rick. Speaking of vintage, Language weaves in “Appreciate,” a classic Pete Rock & CL Smooth track that fans of the Soul Survivor series will find it hard not to move to.

What the latter part of the mix lacks in discernable charm, it makes up for it in beats. From the glitchy hand claps and synth bass lines of Bugz in the Attic’s “Booty La La,” to the organically programmed drums of the Murr Long edit of LAL’s “B.E.W. Epilogue,” the record picks up the pace without looking back. By this point, Language’s concept becomes fully realized, and the trajectory he planned for this soulful journey reaches a comfortable plateau with his own remix of “Black Music.” The track features Roland Clark’s anthemic vocals reminiscent of a danceable Last Poets finale.

RMFRP is a largely successful concept mix, executed by one of the more musically adventurous DJ’s around. A few tracks, like the Platinum Pied Piper’s remix of Greyboy’s “To Know You Is To Love You,” lack the dynamic shine of others, and the comp certainly would not have suffered from more original production from Language himself. Yet, if these are to be considered legitimate drawbacks and not subjective preference, Language’s overall aesthetic remains intact. Real Music for Real People succeeds in presentation and context, and the result is educational, enjoyable, and certainly soulful.

By Chris Tabron

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