20 Watts

Releases of the Week, Week 2: Afrika Bambaataa and Widespread Panic by 20watts
February 20, 2008, 3:50 am
Filed under: Releases of the Week | Tags: , ,

Afrika Bambaataa – Zulu Nation Throwdown EP
Puts most other rap groups to shame.

This is far from a “new” release but it was just re-released on iTunes and there is no explanation as to why these songs were held back for so long. These tracks are what hip-hop should sound like. When Afrika Bambaataa formed Universal Zulu Nation in 1977 he did more than define a genre – he started a movement that swept the nation and was heard worldwide.

Zulu Nation was created for rappers and DJs who were politically and socially aware. With these four tracks Bambaataa showed the world that hip-hop could be soulful and catchy, something that, in my opinion, is lost on many current rappers and DJs. He later founded Soulsonic Force, a group that contained nearly twenty Zulu Nation members.

Zulu Nation and Soulsonic Force are a group of emcees that know how to turn a party out and have dynamic flow that would put most other rap groups to shame. Also, these single albums contain two remix tracks provided by the Harlem Underground Band. These tracks provide a great alternative if you ever get tired of hearing the rappers and just want a pure “funk break”.

In my opinion when it comes to hip-hop there’s nothing like the old school and Afrika Bambaataa proves to the world once again that he is one of the greatest DJs to ever stand behind a set of turntables.
Best Track: “Zulu Nation Throwdown (with Zulu Nation Comic Force)”

Widespread Panic – Free Somehow
Not Widespread Panic’s best studio album, but at least they’re doing something different.

The thing I have always enjoyed (and respected) about Widespread Panic is the way they are able to encompass so many different genres on all of their albums. They can put country vocals, a bluesy guitar tone and soulful rhythm all on one track and make it work. I am happy to say that their newest album is no different.

Free Somehow is an album that has its own flow. The great thing about this jam band is that they are able to bring some of their onstage presence to the recording studio. The only downside to this is that many songs seem to drag on a bit. This may be frustrating for those of you who want to purchase a studio album (as opposed to a live album) for just that reason. Still, the guitar on this album is particularly good and every instrument seems to dance around the others, making sure not to step on any toes or take too much of the spotlight.

As with any jam band, the lyrics are especially interesting. Overall this isn’t Widespread Panic’s best studio album, but it is nice to know that bands are still trying to stay true to their own sound and do something that no one else is willing to do.
Best Track: “Up All Night”

– Zach

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