(5 / 5)
If vintage Compton or Bronx/Brooklyn style hip hop and MC’ing is your thing, then this new album from Andy Cooper really is an essential listen.
Californian-based Andy has made a name for his skills on the mic’ with Ugly Duckling, alongside Dizzy and Young Einstein on seven albums since ’95.
His contribution to The Allergies’ fabulous album “Say The Word”, which dropped in July this year, is pure gold.
But this third solo album is surely a solo career-defining moment, with the strength of the material, the vocal sparkle and the mad production skillz.
One word: Class. Oh, just thought of another one: Faultless. Anyone who knows me and my journalism after 42 years at it, knows I do not get verbose and on a gush fest’, but will give credit where credit is due.
But for me to holler “faultless” from the roof tops, does not happen very often. But it is warranted here across 10 tracks and the full 37 minutes.
Unashamedly old skool hip hop. But it’s not dated one little bit. Not sure I should use this adjective in the middle of a global pandemic, but this shit is as infectious as hell.
Andy’s vocal dexterity, speed, crystal clear diction/delivery and his lyrical ability really is special.
Sounds as fresh as the origins of this genre did back in the day. As the trendy kids say, this shizzle is lit. Fyahh!
Vocalist, MC, songwriter, producer and performer from Long Beach, California. Solo career launched in 2015. At least six European tours under his belt.
Debut LP “Room To Breathe” turned heads in 2016. Second solo album, “The Layered Effect” hit the streets in January 2018.
On “L.I.S.T.E.N.”, all songs written and produced by Andy Cooper except “The Man” & “Tension Release”, produced by Andy Cooper and (The Allergies DJ) Moneyshot, and “Heart” produced by Andy Cooper and Young Einstein.
Recorded and mixed at Funky Dividends in Lakewood, California. Mix assistance from Jungle Josh and Adam Volsen. Mastered by Rainer Kremer at Bionic Audio in Düsseldorf, Germany (this label Unique Records is based in Germany).
Marietta Smith sings (while Andy MCs) on the track “Struttin’”. Tina Cooper sings backing vocals on “Sinking In” and on “L.I.S.T.E.N.” she is joined by Tyler HabteSelassie, Marietta Smith, Honey LaRochelle and LuLu Barlow. Cuts on “What Do You Do?” by DJ Robert Smith.
The set kicks off with “Deluxe”, then the title track, which is the current single after “The Man” dropped first, which pops up three tracks in to the album.
“Struttin’”, “Sinking In”, “Tension Release”, follow, before the collaboration with fellow Ugly Duckling Young Einstein on “Heart”. “Fly Tonite”, “What Do You Do?” and the set closes with “Stand On Up”.
Most music reviewers usually choose “stand out tracks” on an album, but I cannot do so here, because most of the 10 tracks are bangers. I refer to my earlier use of the word, “faultless”.
I’d wager that many of these cuts will get snapped up to appear on TV and movie soundtracks in the next few years. $$$ Kerching! £££.
“L.I.S.T.E.N.” – and by the way, that abbreviation apparently stands for (Lyrical Innovation Supplying The Ear’s Need) – is now in my personal fave Top 10 albums of 2020 thus far.
Andy’s social media blurb says he is, “Dedicated to the creation of exciting, new music inspired by the legacy of timeless, old music”. Well he has succeeded in his mission- and some!) – here.
But Andy Cooper’s hip hop and MC style is not some museum piece or lame tribute by some deluded white guy who fancies himself as the next Eminem.
It may well be retro or vintage, but this collection sounds like an original Def Jam hip hop gem from the 80s, dug up from some long forgotten stash in some long forgotten vault in L.A. or New York. THAT is what makes Cooper’s cuts the dog’s….
The authenticity which comes not from his head or his memory or his studio skills, but from his heart and obvious love (and understanding) of this music genre.
Colour of skin irrelevant. The date on the WAV file, irrelevant. How fresh and relevant the music sounds is the key, -and how much innate passion Andy has for what he does – and how damn good he is at doin’ it.
If there is a second lockdown in the UK, as long as my electricity is not cut off and I can play this album several times every day from as soon as I wake up, I think I’ll cope!
By Simon Redley
(2 / 5) ‘OK Zone’
(3 / 5) ‘Decent Zone’
(4 / 5) ‘Super Zone’
(5 / 5) ‘Awesome Zone’