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Beans - Now, Soon, Someday

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Artist: Beans

Album: Now, Soon, Someday

Label: Warp

Review date: Apr. 19, 2004

On his new EP, we find that our man Beans has grown a beard and traded in his Tron sunglasses for some Aviators. The rest seems like an unnecessary continuation of last year's Tomorrow Right Now. Not counting the two remixes of "Mutescreamer" and the instrumental remix of "Phreek the Beat," what we have here is six new songs totaling about 20 minutes. Which is fine, especially given that the remixes present some of the most complete work on the album; it just further prolongs the wait for the Beans album that really blows everyone away.

Beans finest work came with his old crew, the Anti-Pop Consortium, a group that, to the day they broke up, constantly seemed on the verge of indisputable greatness. Beans and his partners, Priest, M. Sayyid, and Earl Blaize were smart, playful, rhythmically complex, and they actually had fun on the mic. It didn't matter that the lyrics didn't always make linear sense, their creativity was the point. People dug Anti-Pop for the same reason they dig Jay-Z: it's clear they're on about something, but the method matters more than the message.

Solo, Beans seems to be stagnating. In an effort to distance himself from the Consortium after a tense falling out right at the zenith of their popularity, his solo efforts leave behind the elements that made APC great, but don't replace them with many new innovations. Most significantly, Beans lacks a solid producer and beat maker who, like Timbaland for Missy (or Earl Blaize for APC), can tap in to the essence of his considerable vocal talents and make him more of who he is. On Now Soon Someday, Beans, remixes aside, has made all the beats himself. This would be admirable, except that the almost entirely synth-based instrumental textures he's made for the album don't really serve him, and the excellent Prefuse 73 and El-P remixes-which come close to great-just rub this point in further. There's just not enough tension to keep things interesting. It's certainly amazing how many words Beans can squeeze into a phrase, but again, there is a reason white college kids like Jay-Z, and it's only half because of flow. It's because you can hear that he means it. On Now Soon Someday, mostly what you get is the brilliance of Beans' new style, which at this point just isn't that new anymore.

Beans' vocal ramblings remain as inventive as ever and there is certainly a lot to unpack in these nine songs. He's certainly paved the way towards something new - a tomorrow right now, so to speak - he just hasn't gotten there yet. His latest EP hints that the "now" that hip-hop heads have been waiting for may have to wait until soon. Or worse: someday.

By Matthew Bernstein

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