BPL getting Higher
There are volumes included in BPL's Higher and, appropriately,
for a hip-hop mentality, you need to be Herculean to carry it.
The local hip-hop outfit's style is so infectious, it's evident the High Country needs an outlet for recording to support the talent in the area. BPL has the confidence to stump contenders. It's homegrown and down to earth, and the lyrics in Higher are stark.
The group comes together to extend the flagship style that the Digable Planets pioneered with a fusion of jazz and hip-hop. They kick out jams with a rock attitude, as lyrics are laid out with a death-grip severity. Even more respect is due since they produced the record themselves under the name Nusouth.
Peter Schaffer and Michael Martin head the force with vocals. Rhett Huffman takes on the Hammond organ, clavinet, Rhodes, Minimoog and Solina. Ryan Van Fleet keeps impeccable time on the drums, while James Troy Harris III creates plum bass lines that are oh so smooth. Will Sautter stands on the jazz with alto sax, and John Portela joins with tenor sax. Stephon LaMar's vocals, from Major Magick, are heard on two of the tracks in Higher.
The album starts off with a strong assertion that the music contained is dissimilar to the norm. Apart from the claim BPL is world renowned, the assertions are fairly spot on. The lyrical voice is loud, and the first track serves to wake up the crowd. To the band's credit, the album has sold online across the country.
"Gershwin," the second track, is one of conceptual genius. It is based on the composer but sounds like a Schwinn bike. There have been a lot of bands that can call a track something and then tell you what the track means. BPL presents the music that gives the track its title. The tempo creates a sensation of cruising on a low tires, swerving and back peddling down the street.
"Bringin it back," the third track, is the flame to the hydrogen they have been collecting in the first two tracks. Huffman's keys give the liftoff class like good champagne does to a departing vessel. Harris III's bass-lines in this song assure the traveler that they are in good hands.
The sound and lyrical content of "Rainy Days" branches out from the beginning stages of the album to show foreknowledge and understanding. The confidence of the group is shown, and the track serves to dare listeners to keep on.
"Higher" is the title track. The music calls out island ease, as the breeze blows through the herb fields and drifts to the coast, where the sands are warm and minds expand. Then a face busting lyrical slam breaks on the moment, and power is given to revelation.
Make it to the final track and realize the potential that these musicians have. A breathless lyrical onslaught ensues within a hair-raising musical breakdown. Potential may be credit, but at some point it gets collected. BPL plans on making payment. As MC Peter Schaffer said, "We're in this till the wheels fall off."
This is a home-cut album, so there are moments where the flaws of timing within the track layers are apparent. It is also very raw. Voices on the album are what they sound like when you talk with these guys. Overall, BPL has made a big leap in a progressive direction, unashamed of what they've created.
BPL released its debut album, Higher, several months ago, and you can order the full track list on iTunes.com for $9.99 or at http://www.cdbaby.com. Their next show is the Face the AIDS Benefit on Wednesday, Feb. 24, in Legends Music Hall at Appalachian State University.