Bump This Now: fre$h by Profound

February, as is custom, brings tributes to the late James Yancey b.k.a J Dilla by the hundreds. So, I’m gonna try (hard) to steer clear of likening the new beat tape by Profound to Dilla-anything. Decidedly, it’s sample-driven hip-hop, and yes, it’s boom-bap, but as the title suggests, it somehow all ends up sounding pretty new. The only similarities I see worth pointing out between something like, say, Ruff Draft and fre$h are that they’re contemporaneously forward-thinking yet dependent on a pantheon of great hip-hop from decades-gone-by. Moods loom large over fre$h and are precisely what keeps it interesting to these ears whether listened to inside closed rooms, on airplanes or driving along the highway.

Multiple listens in (thanks to an advance copy), fre$h is clearly the work of an artist with a cogent vision, and in times when a lot of hip-hop treads precariously close to homogeneity whether its beats or bars, a vision and a convincing artistic statement are particularly invigorating. In the race to the top of the game, it’s those who take complete charge of their artistic contributions that will stay ahead. That means everything from how your music is presented to the public for consumption, how you talk about/represent it while handling press, and quite importantly, how you respond to critique. The words you don’t use then become easily as important as the words you do, the same way the sounds you throw in as a producer are just as vital as the spaces you leave in for silence.

Neo-expressionists like David Hockney and Jorg Immendorff weren’t highly-regarded because they were stylistically similar to Philip Guston or even Baselitz, but because they commandeered their own way through the bagarre of the art world to successfully distinguish themselves from their contemporaries and influences. Is it not a feature of all great art to distinguish itself right from the get-go?

There’s a lot of folk out there content with riding popular waves and trends before waiting to get co-opted through Facebook shout-outs from overenthusiastic scene chumps or better yet, the odd gig, but it’s getting much easier nowadays to winnow the wheat from the chaff, especially in the dog-eat-dog world of online music. While I don’t know if Profound, real name Amandeep Singh Multani, has a day job, I do get the feeling if he “makes beats all-day-long” (something a certain Miss Badu said once of J Dilla), and “markets” his vision uncompromisingly, he could come out flu$h.

Call it a stretch if you want, but it’s not hard to imagine Pusha spit a lean sixteen on a brawnier cut of ‘Outro (GTFO)’ or Spitta rhyming through smoke clouds on ‘high like a star’. That’s to say these beats have plenty of bounce and flex, something even the most “out-there” hip-hop productions seems to lack.

Midway through the tape ‘slowdowngf’ doesn’t pussyfoot. She’s a lulu, a beginning-of-summer jam that’s near-impossible to fault, and will likely be the crowning jewel of this release (out today on Mumbai indie label Knowmad Records in case you’re wondering). ‘Ain’t Shy’ and ‘lastofyou’ feel somewhat symbiotic, both with drums that threaten to collapse on themselves amidst spiralling patterns of melody, but it’s intro number ‘walnut crepe’ that drew me in to begin with. Culling a razor-sharp verse from AZ’s ‘New York’ to great effect, I had no choice but to listen on and it’s been quite rewarding.

On the outset, I’ll admit I wasn’t the biggest fan of Profound’s Returning Rituals from last year. It seemed to blend into “2016-contemporary-downtempo-beat-music” all too easily (something brnsctr’s ARTLESS skilfully avoided), but there are few healthier signs of artistic merit than growth and evolution, and thankfully on fre$h, they arrive by the boatload.

Listen to/download fre$h by Profound here.

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