Let he who has not sinned cast the first JanSport. Before the alternative hip-hop fans, often called backpackers by the hip-hop community, receive a thrashing, be warned that alternative hip-hop is on the move. Similar to OutKast and underground rapper Aesop Rock, hip-hop fans are opting for jazz-laced beats, complex and intelligent lyrics, brimmed knitted caps, and ethnically diverse MCs. California Bay Area’s Sonicbloom combines the melodic phrasing of AndrâˆšÂ© 3000 and the playfulness and lyrical style of fellow Nor Cal wordsmiths The Gift of Gab and Aesop Rock with Paradigm Lift.Firewalk hosts a sensual, bass-heavy groove glued together by an actual xylophone and pan flute while three MCs wax quirkily poetic about the intricacies of their flower garden. This theme returns in an ode to their obsession with home botany and organic produce with “Imby (In My Back Yard).”
“Under the Table” could have only been written within the bohemian overtones of a classic San Franciscan Summer of Love expressing the group’s hippiedom and the struggle to live off the grid.
Despite Sonicbloom’s possible lyrical reincarnation of any San Francisco sunshine pop group, the album maintains a constant flow of moroseness and sometimes boredom without even touching the almost peppiness of Blackalicious’ The Gift of Gab. Not necessarily a negative, the album could’ve mixed in more spices from that aforementioned garden and put some of the melodic elements to better use without resorting to often chilled-down choruses. Although the album closes with “Feels Good,” which is not so representative of its title, Paradigm Lift begs listeners to prop up their feet on their couches and enjoy the vocabulary lesson often lacking in a still vibrant genre.