Soul, funk and rap are still growing as musical frontiers, at times with diminishing returns. Gone are the days when quoting and copping Northern and Southern classics was perfunctory - nowadays, the average white fans are often found quietly scraping the 311 bumper stickers off their cars, and the bands seem to think that a good jam is some Philly lite keys over a tiny hi-hat and a singer they found mumbling some Paul's Boutique at the Sizzler dessert bar. Two recent finds from myspace may be moving things back in the right direction.
G8 is a small outfit from the Twin Cities. While the local scene has spent the last 10 years mobilizing in the direction of solid independent/undercommercialized rap and hip-hop, G8 seems more interested in a loungey jazz sound to go with a routine of rhymes. There's some great musical arrangements [horns and rhythm guitar aplenty] and solid up-front production going on. You get the feeling that they invested a good amount of time in the session recording - it all comes out smooth as a Dayton fill group, with some nice flourishes that don't wander. In comparison, though, the raps come out as a little distracting and almost superfluous: lyrically, Burn seems to be the strongest of the three tracks available online. While they have a few things to say, the dry spoken-word style delivery doesn't meet what the musicians behind them have to offer. But the group's working with the right parts and pieces; hopefully the words will catch up with the level of the notes in due time.
On the other end of the spectrum and the far side of the country, there's an interesting group named Milky Soul. Their sound comes across as unequal parts funk and zipper-fast 808, with several distinct nods to Miami/booty bass-style production. Of the tracks available on myspace, all four emphasize a clean and speedy delivery involving liver abuse, love, sex and adventures with weed. Cognac and 125 are the clear winners, with Lonestar coming up close behind. Strings isn't bad, but it's more of an extended joke about in-shape ass than anything. Still, they're clearly succeeding at entertaining themselves as well as the listening audience. Where some latter-day groups either seem to content to mock their own Beck/Beastie influences or don't don't don't shut up about keeping it real, Milky Soul delivers a strangely catchy weird amalgam that sounds closer to a career than a day job.
You can stream and download four tracks from G8's myspace page, but Milky Soul's myspace offers streaming only.
Sean U'Ren is a tall writer living in Los Angeles. He is currently complaining about the weather and maintains a column of his past and future mistakes at his Gaper's Block column, Chicago to LA .