After seeing Rahzel live, be it solo or with his bandmates in the Roots,
it's tough to judge whether Make The Music 2000 is a shining
accomplishment or a bit of a letdown. In a live situation, Rahzel plays
entire songs (bass, vocals, drums, samples, keys, guitars) using only
his vocal cords, lips and tongue. Without the aid of instruments or
recordings, he expertly mimics a DJ cutting and scratching his way
through a round of hip-hop and R&B songs. He also does a rendition of
the Art of Noise's "Moments In Love" that is chillingly accurate,
especially given that he isn't using any drum machines or DATs to back
On Make The Music 2000, however, Rahzel allows actual bass,
vocals, drums, samples, keys and guitars into the mix, oftentimes
recalling his work with the Roots, though just as often taking off into
an entirely different (and gasp! commercial) direction.
"Make The Music 2000" and "All I Know" (RealAudio excerpt),
for example, each features Rahzel's spot-on imitations of drum loops, industrial machine movements
and scratching, but they also incorporate traditional hip-hop loops and
Rahzel's decent rapping skills (pretty fly for a beat guy, as the Offspring might say). The
purity of Rahzel's artistry aside, both songs groove in the right places
and would fit in well on commercial rap radio.
The remainder of the album doesn't hit the same peaks. It's a lot like a
producer showcase album, with guest artists appearing alongside the
headliner. Erykah Badu's scat singing on "Southern Girl" is performed
over pure beatboxing, though its slow pace is out of tune with the
remainder of the album. On an album of her own it could be an odd hit,
but here it just sticks out. Missing the mark entirely is "Steal My
Soul" (RealAudio excerpt), which features Me'Shell
NdgeOcello doing some sort of poetry reading and Branford Marsalis
playing a horn every once in awhile. Rahzel's beatboxing is solid on the
track, but the accompanying poetry slam is just annoying.
Hitting the target, on the other hand, is Slick Rick, who bounces his
way through "Night Riders" as Rahzel backs him with vocal scratches and,
uh, duck calls. Q-Tip also turns in a fine performance, riffing over a
solid beatbox session accented by synths on "To The
Beat," which sounds like vintage A Tribe Called Quest.
Those of you who are hardcore beatbox fans needn't worry too much.
Sprinkled throughout the album are snippets from a San Francisco show
that featured Rahzel performing LL Cool J's "Rock The Bells," Wu-Tang
Clan's "Wu-Tang Clan Ain't Nothing To Fuck With" and a version of
Aaliyah's "If Your Mother Only Knew" (RealAudio excerpt).
When Rahzel gets the beat, bass
and vocals going at the same time on "If Your Mother Only Knew" and you
hear the audience members' "whoa!" reaction, you know they experienced
the same goose bumps you just did.
The goose bumps continue on a hidden closing track that features Rahzel
going head to head with ex-Young Black Teenagers spinner (and current
MTV fave) DJ Skribble in a cutting and scratching battle that truly
displays Rahzel's amazing talent. Why he chose to accent this talent
with instrumentation and guests is anyone's guess, but when this
experimentation hits the target, it truly scores a bull's-eye.