Children of the Horn
The state of popular hip hop has indeed changed in the past 15 years, incorporating elements of other genres like EDM, indie music and even new wave, but there are some genre-bending acts that still stick to pretty basic hip hop elements. The group Youngblood Brass Band has been around since the ’90s, combining big brass/horn music with classic hip hop. Their latest release, Pax Volumi, is a testament to their unique sound and how hip hop can reach different heights without the use of other contemporary music.
“20 Questions” is a fun, goofy statement on the group’s current status in the world of hip hop. Although the horns are ablaze in this track, the bassline takes the cake. D.H. Skogen’s clean (but effective) rap voice cut through the layers of instruments. “A Gust Inside the God” sports an early ’90s dance beat, heavy tuba work and a socially conscious D.H. Skogen ripping through lyrics. It’s not exactly an enjoyable track. One doesn’t necessarily want to hear such busy horn work. It takes a lot from the actually rapping which should be the focus, otherwise everything else turns gimmicky.
“Wrestlevania” is a wild instrumental track, showing off just how skillfull the rest of Youngblood Brass Band is. Strong video game vibes are abundant in this track. Perhaps, the song is a tribute to the NES-era Castlevania games. The last track, “Third Half,” is an instrumental track, pulling a lot from modern and Latin jazz. It’s odd listening to these kind of tracks in records that should showcase the band as a whole, utilizing all the components. That includes Skogen on the vocals. Otherwise, why not just listen to a regular jazz group? Maybe that’s not the point of having instrumental tracks on this album, and the musicians just really want to shred and have a good time. That’s never a bad thing. Pax Volumi is 11 tracks of a pretty good time, but in ways that seem all too (but comfortingly) familiar.