To say you remember a time when Moe Pope emceed for local hip-hop band Crown City Rockers (under the group's former moniker, Mission:) is either to date yourself, or sound like you're really keyed into the underground scene. Whatever the case, those who remember Pope and know Crown City's bassist Headnodic (né Ethan Parsonage) would probably be stoked to hear they teamed up to record an album together, with Headnodic laying down beats for Pope's fast-paced, slangy rhymes. The result, called Megaphone, is a phenomenal piece of work.
Megaphone's best asset is its musical depth. The beats are beautiful, which is something you can almost never say about a hip-hop album. Berklee School of Music alum and avid record collector Headnodic manages to incorporate all kinds of improbable influences (Klezmer, Latin, and Indian among them), with breaks by Crown City drummer Max MacVeety, and even some live horns. His track "Zuh Zuh Zuh" turns what could be a Middle Eastern folk song into a party jam, complete with a peppy hook.
The other strong point is the duo's ability to cull musical influences from hip-hop's own canon, whether by isolating and looping a small part of a sample in "That-a-That," or in the rhythmic qualities of Pope's voice — he often raps with an implied swing feel. From the sound of this album, it's clear that both of these guys have either benefited from formal training, or spent a long time hanging out with the right people. Still, Megaphone rarely over-intellectualizes its material or calls attention to the mechanics of its presentation. Pope and Headnodic have obvious chemistry, and come with a naturalness that ups their replay value. They're worth checking out. (Natural High)
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