Do I need to wrestle with the whole "live band rap is not hip hop" argument? After Things Fall Apart, after "Sabotage"--hell, after the Fatback Band's '79 single "King Tim III (Personality Jock)," the first major-label single with actual rapping on it? No, I don't. Not even after A Tiger Dancing unfurls and has me thinking less about boom-bap and more about bop groove. The litany of Nixon-age Blue Note recordings sample-slayed a decade ago by Pete Rock and numerous Imitation Process Pete Rock Food Products is Frankensteined back into life on Heiruspecs' sophomore release, evoking that strange pre-Headhunters period where jazz met funk but hadn't fully fused yet. The beats are slotted into a mode where the break itself is less a support structure than the means to an end, but the steady churn of rhythmic hooks maintains undertones of elasticity. Most breathe the fumes of dVRG's electric piano, a sprightly thing that traipses like George Duke at his most energetic. The grooves feel like they could burst into euphoric crescendos of trembling, loose improv at any moment--but they don't.
Nor do they need to. It's a bit too easy to get caught up in the instrumental aspect of the group. Between those aforementioned Roots-indebted first four tracks and the borderline Krautcrunk seethe that fuels "32 Months," "Swearsong," and the title track, casual listeners might find the riffs resonating long after the verses do. But MC Felix and his counterweight Muad'dib rattle off stories of club gig mayhem and pissed-off loneliness that shun overflashy lyricism in favor of stoop-side lamentations-slash-gripe sessions. Felix offers Slugular inflections sans neuroses (which makes him not entirely Slug-like), while Muad'dib's voice revs and snaps like Hemi-powered nunchaku. They make you wanna buy them a beer or three. Mostly to make them talk more.
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