Terrace Martin Assembles Top-Shelf Talent for His New Group, The Pollyseeds
If you follow hip-hop, you’ve probably noticed the cries for producers to receive more recognition for their work growing louder and louder. The argument is more than valid, as the architects behind the music itself shoulder a large chunk of the burden yet often go unnoticed with their personalities held in the background. Releasing projects under their own billing is perhaps the best way for them to get that acclaim, keeping the vocalists secondary, while the producers take their time in the spotlight.
Terrace Martin isn’t just a typical producer, by any means: he’s a genius on the saxophone, and doesn’t shy away from the microphone. His most fitting job description is simply an innovator, who’s proven his worth in collaborations with household names such as Kendrick Lamar, Talib Kweli and Snoop Dogg. His newest creation is the Pollyseeds, a supergroup of like-minded musicians who produce a fusion of sounds on their debut album, Sounds of Crenshaw Vol. 1.
Tying together decades of impressive music history in Los Angeles is an ambitious effort, but Martin’s diverse team proves to be up to the task. The collective is made up of himself, Robert Glasper and Kamasi Washington (among others), who together bring copious amounts of jazz, hip-hop and R&B knowledge to the table. Accomplished rapper Problem (credited as Chachi) also lends his talents on two of the songs, further legitimizing Sounds of Crenshaw Vol. 1 with a staple in the Compton rap scene.
The album begins with about 30 seconds of pure 808 tone on “Tapestry,” more than enough to rattle the room with the right speakers. Many of the album’s best moments, however, aren’t created on a beat machine, but by the various instruments that drive the soundscape. “Chef E Dubble,” the first true song on the project, shines with Martin’s beautiful saxophone melody, setting the tone for the rest of the album. On “Believe,” the swinging, samba-influenced drums settle the listener into a relaxed groove that’s accentuated by hazy vocals and Chris Cadenhead’s bright keys.
The true acoustic instance comes on “Wake Up,” composed of quiet piano chords and passionate saxophone notes. Martin doesn’t need words to express his emotion on the song, striking the heart with his delicate, tragic melody. The high note near the end is one of the high points of the album, stretching the sentiments even further.
A sonic portrait of Los Angeles wouldn’t be complete without G-Funk, and there’s plenty of it lodged in the synths on Sounds of Crenshaw Vol. 1. Originally released as a single, “Intentions” is a funk-filled tribute to the cornerstone of West Coast hip-hop. Complete with verses by Chachi, it’s well suited for a drive down Crenshaw or anywhere else you and your car find yourselves. “Up and Away” puts an R&B twist on the heavy drums, using the synth sparingly, as Wyann Vaughn’s foggy vocals create the melody.
At times, the blending of so many styles on the album can feel a tad forced depending on how it comes together. The stock drum loop on “Mama D/Leimert Park” doesn’t do the melody justice, holding the song back from its full potential. With artists of the caliber that Martin pulls together, however, those moments are few and far between. Featured singer Preston Harris takes listeners to church with his soulful riffs on “Don’t Trip,” pushing the passion while Martin cries, “I will always love you, forever,” behind his vocoder. It’s a masterful close to the album, and a captivating introduction to The Pollyseeds, building anticipation for what will hopefully be a long run of music from the coalition.