I remember it like it was yesterday; it was an E.P. called Fresh Mode from Ugly Duckling and immediately caught my attention. I was deeply entrenched in rave culture and was just getting BPM Magazine off the ground in SoCal, and three guys from Long Beach got me excited about hip hop again. After entering the rave scene in the mid-90s, All I was listening to was dance music, so it was nice to get derailed and pulled out of my 4/4 untz untz untz bubble for some fresh air.
If you came up on this type of hip hop, you know. It was infectious and universal, from Digable Planets to Tribe to De La to Beasties to Third Base, and I could go on and on; I loved it and still do. Ugly Duckling had a love for that old school hip hop too, and it carried through in every detail from the production to the DJing to the rapping; it was a good time.
Like all things, culture, music, and styles change, and Ugly Duckling slowly faded away after a nice run. Then I get an email, Andy Cooper from UD was back with a solo album (his third! where have I been), and I clicked that link stat.
The bouncing and infectious bass line loops, horns, and old school style hit me like 2002, and I was in - all the way in.
The L.P. is called 'L.I.S.T.E.N.' (Lyrical Innovation Supplying The Ear's Need), and I was immediately taken back to that era that I loved and it seems craved - and it was new! Call it part nostalgia, but there is something genuinely fresh about this album that is leaning on so much of the past.
Cooper acknowledges this in the track "Deluxe" which is brutally honest, but in the best of ways and with a wink and a nod to the heads that came up with the golden era sound. Cooper's lyrical style is like a fully automatic confetti canon, moving quickly with bright and colorful rhymes that would leave most of today's rappers in the dust.
So why call it L.I.S.T.EN.? "The scene today is so dependent on fast-paced, social media marketing and instant reactions that I don't believe the audience has time to actually listen to songs and enjoy them, which, in my opinion, diminishes the value of music. I'm inviting people to soak in this wonderful art form because it's one of life's greatest reprieves," says Cooper.
Cooper has made an album for himself and those who still like to bob their head to sample-based beats and bass lines. Those infectious loops, creative speed bag raps, and dare I say, fucking fun hip hop. All music progresses, and today's hip hop is miles away from where it all started, but a look back is sometimes necessary, if only to see where you came from.
The younger hip hop fans might not care or get this record, but that's not the point. Cooper has made a record that he wanted to make, something he felt to be true to his roots, and I'm happy he did. Cooper has put together a companion mix for us as well, so check out the album - head right for Deluxe, and enjoy the mix which also hits you with "Deluxe" right out of the gate.
1. Andy Cooper-'Deluxe intro/Deluxe'
2. Slick Rick-'Mona Lisa'
3. Brand Nubian-'One For All'
4. EPMD-'I'm Housin'
5. The Allergies-'Can't Keep Working This Hard'
6. Kool and the Gang-'Kools Back Again'
7. Funkadelic-'Butt to Butt Resuscitation'
8. The JB's-'The Grunt'
9.The Sylvers-'Am I Truly Yours'
10. Paul Humphrey-'Uncle Willie's Dream'
11. George Benson-'I Want You (She's So Heavy)'
12 Hot Butter-'Apache
More on Cooper:
Along with L.I.S.T.E.N. Cooper has been hard at work writing, recording and performing with The Allergies, also embarking on extensive commercial production work for Audio Network: but his true love is the sample-based hip-hop of his youth. 'L.I.S.T.E.N.' gives Andy the chance to show off all the skills he's acquired as a mainstay of true skool heroes Ugly Duckling. The album's title track is another fast-rap clinic similar to his 2016 hit 'Rock Rock', and 'The Man' (co-produced with DJ Moneyshot) is a super funky flamethrower that leaves the microphone scorched. 'L.I.S.T.E.N.' also gives Andy the chance to reunite with his old Ugly Duckling production partner Young Einstein to create the high-powered thumper 'Heart'. Along with Moneyshot and Einstein, Cooper welcomes Berlin's champion DJ Robert Smith to the fold, contributing to the jazzy 'What Do You Do?'
3. The Man
5. Sinking In
6. Tension Release
8. Fly Tonite
9. What Do You Do?
10. Stand On Up