Edan: Beauty and the Beat

Beauty and the Beat

It's a challenge to describe Boston's Edan as anything more than an obsessed fan-boy of late '80s hip hop, an acolyte schooled in the furious braggadocio of Big Daddy Kane and Kool G Rap. On his debut, 2002's Primitive Plus, Edan's chattering rhymes and kinetic beats established him as a funky technician of rap restoration. At times, however, his nostalgia was cloyingly thick as he proudly spouted fast rap rhymes like others sport throwback jerseys. On Edan's new album, Beauty and the Beat, he's still paying homage to his heroes. "Fumbling Over Words That Rhyme" name-checks dozens of rap legends, from Kool Herc and Kool Moe Dee, up through the Wu and Nas. Beauty, however, does far more than shout-out Edan's personal pantheon or clone their microphone mannerisms. Unlike Primitive, a colorful but loose collection of songs, Beauty is a tightly bound effort clocking in at an efficient 34 minutes. The album's 13 tracks are briskly paced and smartly sequenced, flowing as seamlessly as you'd expect from someone who's a DJ as well as producer and MC.

On Beauty, Edan eschews familiar funk or jazz samples, and instead mines the surreal swirls and moody loops of '60s psychedelic rock. The fuzzed-out guitar screeches, dreamy horn wails, and sci-fi sound effects create a unique sonic bed that complements Edan's imaginative lyricism. On "Making Planets," he clearly takes joy in stringing together enough non sequitur to make Ghostface jealous: "I frolic in the sand/With a colony of ants/My particles expand/Building oxygen in plants." Edan's rhymes aren't long on clarity, but they're brimming with finesse deeper than punch lines and catchy hooks--this is an MC who still appreciates the basic pleasure of wordplay.

Edan isn't likely to gain a mainstream audience, but he needn't be pigeonholed as a preservationist novelty act, either. Last album, he demonstrated why '88 shouldn't be forgotten. With this mature sophomore effort, he's staking a claim for his own future legacy.

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