In 1998, England’s electronic hip-hop scene gave birth to what became one of the coolest rap groups of the millennium.
Though never showing their actual faces, Damon Albarn and Jamie Hewlett created a successful virtual rap quartet. Using animated characters in music videos and live shows, Albarn and Hewlett are accompanied by Phil Cornwell as Murdoc and Miho Hatori as Noodle. Albarn is the voice of 2D, the ficticious front man for the Gorillaz.
Gorillaz are back in the scene for the new decade. Rapping with righteous fury, the imaginative group has brought us another amazing mix, Plastic Beach, which was released March 3. Though rap has never been my primary genre, it’s hard to ignore anything that Gorillaz produces considering how imaginative their music can be.
After a subtle but nicely flowing intro track, a fat beat drops in, followed by the iconic rhymes of none other than Snoop Dog. The theme comes to mind quickly: relaxation. Snoop greets us as children, imparting his wisdom in rhyme and rhythm.
“The revolution will be televised / And the pollution from the ocean / Now with devotion / Push peace and keep it in motion.”
The next track, “White Flag,” is a devotion to ending war and social conflict through passivity, introducing a surprising anti-war feel that continues throughout the mix.
Gorillaz are changing the game. Despite their fictional biology, they use this album to push rap into an evolutionary stage using several different musical styles that can be compared to traditional Indian music, as well as the folk style of bands such as Fleet Foxes.
There’s no denying this group’s power and its musicianship. 2D delivers his vocal magic, pulling listeners into their fantastic virtual world. Frequent guest vocalist Del Tha Funkee Homosapien still applies his spunk and funk to his smooth rhymes, along with other amazing featured artists such as Mos Def, Paul Simonon from The Clash and Lou Reed from The Velvet Underground.
Although Gorillaz has been defined as an electronic rap group, continual listening to this album may convince people otherwise.
“On Melancholy Hill” is one of the sweetest sounding ’80s throwback tributes I’ve heard from this genre. The quartet keeps their awesome, slight parody feel with “Superfast Jellyfish,” a song about cereal … or is it carrots? “Ha, that’s chicken,” adds featured artist Gruff Rhys. Though a bit confusing at first, this track remains the most fun for listeners.
Plastic Beach gives rise the group’s first complete conceptual album; one that is absolutely relatable to their audience. It feels as if they released the album just in time for spring break, where it could be played blaring on the coast of South Padre.
Only real musicians can make a crowd move; this album achieves that and more. I challenge you to put this on at a party and see what happens.
On the other hand, Plastic Beach can be one to lounge to, letting the listener experience just how strongly musicianship factors into a Gorillaz mix.