Elaquent - Rediscovery
With everything gained as you navigate adulthood, there is often a corresponding sense of loss. For all the accrued wisdom and freedom to map your own destiny, it can become harder to find joy and a sense of wonder. What instilled magic and excitement as a kid can feel remote and inaccessible. As Pablo Picasso famously claimed: “All children are artists. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.”
This is the subtext of Elaquent’s latest Mello Music Group release, Rediscovery. It’s the latest immersive world built by the Canadian producer, who has enlisted an Avenger’s universe worth of rap assassins including Chester Watson, Skyzoo, Sonnyjim, Brainorchestra, and Namir Blade. This is both a time capsule from the past and a touchstone encapsulating his last few years – bridging virtuosic production mastery with the playful creativity of pre-adolescence.
“The record signifies a return to form. I wanted to rediscover the things in my life that make me happy and help me find my inner child,” Elaquent says. “Martial arts movies, pro wrestling, video games, collecting action figures, traveling – all things that I grew up loving that at some point I fell out of love with – the one’s that over the last few years, I really started falling in love with again. I wanted to dedicate the album to that feeling.”
Over 14 tracks, you’re reminded of the euphoria of first ideation. A return to the mentality of the teenager in the little room with outsized dreams, unremitting passion, and the desire to pour their soul into every soundscape.
“I’m best known for mostly instrumental hip hop, but I got the urge to collaborate with my favorite artists and a few new ones,” Elaquent says. “That was why I got into making beats into the first place, and liked the idea of following it up with the last Mello record, Forever is a Pretty Long Time. This is a heart on my sleeve type of record.”
From the first notes of “Tiger Cage II,” you’re transported into a cinematic portal. Cavernous drums and brass fanfare remind you of the times when trips to the movies felt larger than life – where vivid sounds and images are seared into memory. Then the beat kicks in and you fall deeper into the realm, a place buoyed by glowing vaporwave synths, melancholic piano keys, Pusha T “Yughck” ad-libs and Common’s voice urging you to “keep going.” It’s yet another reminder of how Elaquent never fails to channel and expand upon the tradition of Pete Rock, DJ Hi-Tek, J Dilla, and Madlib: the kid making beats in his childhood bedroom has become their peer.
On the “Spirit of Richard Wright,” the Brooklyn griot Skyzoo summons the three-dimensional insight of the late author of “Black Boy” and Native Sun.” Between Skyzoo’s double entendres and life-affirming levitations, Elaquent splices in speech clips about the canonized author. It provides a reminder that the civil rights struggle continues to the present day: the tremendous problems that Black people deal with remain and a lack of adequate understand leads to a deficit of empathy. Behind the boards, Elaquent supplies symphonic melodies, both timeless and tapped into the matrix of classic soul.
The monotone samurai Chester Watson continues his win streak in tandem with Elaquent. On “Away,” he crafts a surrealist journey: seeeing through the fog with laser vision, slicing through the beat like a dream cloud. “Hoes Mad” finds Brittney Carter and JazzStar creating something slyly taunting and hilarious, a classic slab of rap braggadocio with a neo-soul coda that sounds like a lost classic from the Soulquarians. Elaquent does what he does best: conveying a feeling of warmth and familiarity, a cozy hearth but also a canvas for rappers to exhale fire.
On “Vintage Dior,” the UK rap standard bearer Sonnyjim kicks his slippery superfly flow over an eerie synthesizer riff that Elaquent makes sound like a ghostly theremin séance. Despite the separation of the Atlantic Ocean, the pair sound telepathically connected as if it was recorded in the same lab. “Lobster Spaghetti” finds the preternaturally raw Brainorchestra living lavishly, smoking expensive weed, eating extravagant meals, and stacking cash. Elaquent reveals his maestro’s gift for psychedelic bricolage. While the instrumental “Tuscany,” takes you to the Italian coast for a work of stunning beauty. The chord changes are postcard-gorgeous, the processed guitars wordlessly sing in a celestial key, and the drums sound like stardust.
The finale, “I Made You A Song,” brings the odyssey a complete 360 degrees. Over iridescent, smooth, unquantized production that sounds like it has the beatific soul of Dilla beaming down, you are brought back to what made you love music in the first place. The psychic distance of those first memories of teenage obsession suddenly shrink. The dreams have become real. You grasp the sense of possibility that you are leading the life you are supposed to be living and if not it’s never too late. The past is always accessible and ready to be discovered, and the future still remains unwritten.