daKAH [Twiropa, 2005]

Let‘s just get this out of the way at the start.  daKAH is a sixty-four piece hip-hop orchestra.  Seriously.  Horn section, string section, bassists, nine emcees, several DJs, and more live instrumentation than you can shake a Polaroid picture at.  In a post Dizzee Rascal hip-hop  world, where everyone from Jay-Z to the Ying Yang Twins are making as sparse of beats as possible, it is no wonder that daKAH aren’t exactly the biggest hip-hop group on Earth.  But that might change following the group’s appearance at Twiropa during Jazzfest.

It would be easy to write daKAH off as a hip-hop Polyphonic Spree, or to accuse them of having too many cooks to spoil blah blah blah, but there’s one problem.  daKAH is outstanding.  The sixty-four musicians form a dense wall of sound, a hip-hop My Bloody Valentine if you will, that is part Roots, part P-Funk, and, yes, part Mozart.  The resulting melting pot is as fascinating as it is tastefully arranged.  It would be so easy for their sound to become muddied into one throbbing groove, but individual instruments are easy to pick out of the fray.

Their down tempo, lite-jazz hip-hop can easily be compared to the Roots, and they have no problem covering each of the influences previously mentioned (okay, so they don’t cover Mozart.  Yet.).  daKAH’s songs jump across as many styles as time will permit within the frame of a traditional hip-hop song.  It’s not particularly grating when the jazz funk groove of “Triple Threat” gives way to a beat box break down, only to have all sixty-four musicians swell up behind it.  The result really should sound overproduced, but it doesn‘t.  It‘s jaw-dropping.

And that’s sort of what hip-hop is all about.  It was started to break as far away from the conventions as modern pop as possible.  With hip-hop reigning as the new pop, it’s no wonder splinter groups like daKAH exist.  A far cry from the militancy of Mos Def and the intensity of Dizzee, daKAH make feel-good hip-hop that you don’t need street cred to enjoy.

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