our score: 4.5 out of 5.0
|Multicultural Messaging Without Being Corny, Vol. 1
about Ozomatli and they sound like you can write them off; a multiracial
band (heavy on the Latinos), a taste for uplifting politics, rapping
with live instruments, they’ve been on PBS, they got arrested
for protesting blah blah blah. Everyone wants to like
a band like this, because people want rappers who have
something to say and say it well, people want a rap group
that can also play live…but it never works out. You’ve
been burned before. So you kinda write them off.
And then this happens:
a really great album that transcends all the pre-existing notions
that you might have about music like this. Ozo has truly stepped
up into the big leagues.
How did they
do it? Well, by incorporating even more sounds and genres and
cultures into their already expansive vision. “Believe,”
the first track, throws around a Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan sample
and backing vocals from gnaour singer Hassan Hakmoun
and East Asian chord structures to go along with its wah-wah scratch-funk
guitar and its uplifting messages, delivered in Spanish and in
English: “This is my world / This is your world / If you
believe”. They use a Czech orchestra on some tracks, including
the Cuban-influenced “Love and Hope,” they pull legendary
pianist Eddie Palmieri in for “Nadie Te Tira” and
Los Lobos’ David Hidalgo for “Santiago,” old
associates like Jurassic 5’s Cut Chemist and Chali 2na (former
full-time members of Ozomatli) drop by separately…it’s
full but not overfull.
more like a band that uses rap now than being an actual rap band.
This could have gone either way, but it turns out to be a great
thing. “Te Estoy Buscando” is a tango, crooned beautifully;
“Saturday Night” is rap-metal with blazing horns—and
both of them sound, magically, like the work of the same band.
They can burn on “Déjeme en Paz,” slow it way
down for “Te Estoy Buscando,” get introspective or
party-ish or Latinate or Anglophile on any track they want—it
all sounds like the work of the same band. And it sounds effortless.
There’s not a
whole lot of sloganeering here, either, so even right-wingers
can enjoy the work of this collective of street activists. When
Ozo wants to make a political point, they will be doing so live,
because many of these songs have very little to do with anyone’s
political views. Yeah, there are some viewpoints taken, but unless
you know Spanish, you aren’t going to be too affected by
really more about the music. This is the way rap/rock makes sense:
fiery, worldly, smooth and rough in equal degree. I love it all
the way, and might end up with so much love that it ends up on
my best-of list for the year.
liked Street Signs...
2. Love and Hope
3. Street Signs
4. (Who Discovered) America?
5. Who's to Blame
6. Te Estoy Buscando
7. Saturday Night
8. Déjame en Paz
10. Ya Viene el Sol [The Beatle Bob Remix]
11. Doña Isabelle
12. Nadie Te Tira
13. Cuando Canto