Artist: The Automator
Album: Wanna Buy A Monkey?
Label: Sequence / Wordplay
Rating: 8 / 10
Reviewer: DJ MF
Throughout his career, Dan the Automator has been called many things, ranging from genius to one of the best beatmakers of our day. In the past 2 years alone, he’s been responsible for some of the more interesting releases unleashed upon the hip hop community, with the “Deltron 3030” project, the “Dr. Octagon” project, “Handsome Boy Modeling School”, and his participation in the “Gorillaz” project. More recently, he’s abandoned the ‘hip hop’ sound altogether, and joined up with Mike Patton and Jennifer Charles for the supremely underrated “Lovage” project.
With this new release, it appears that Mr. Nakamura just wants to unwind a bit however. As advertised, “Wanna Buy A Monkey” is in the mixtape vein of releases. But worry not intrepid hip hop listener – if you’re expecting Dan to start shouting “WILLIAM H. AUTOMATOR” over all of his tracks, and to not have an iota of actual DJ skill, you’re misinformed.
As the liner notes inform, this album can be viewed as an insight into the sounds, music, and styles that have influenced Dan over the last couple of years, and in a less abstract way – just stuff that he likes to vibe to.
Befitting the man whose style has ranged from the futuristic funk found on “Dr. Octagon” to the trippy sounds of “Lovage”, this mix album features a wide range of sounds and artists. Probably the biggest surprise of the entire LP is the effort of Black Rob, who shows that the quality of his rookie release on Bad Boy was not an aberration. Over an old school sounding beat, with a pounding bassline, some nice horns, and drums reminiscent of the late 80’s hip hop sound, Rob just rips shit up. Truthfully, it might take you a listen or two to realize that indeed, this is the same guy who brought you ‘Whoa’.
Interestingly, after the initial jolt of hip hop provided by the aforementioned Black Rob, Deltron 3030, Brand Nubian, and Encore, the album slips into a more trippy, slower mode, featuring music by the likes of Air, Zero, Tortoise, The Doves, and Lovage. While the idea is good, the execution lacks a little, as the jarring contrast of the high paced Deltron cut preceding this subsection doesn’t help transfer the mood properly. Self-admittedly, I’m not the biggest fan of this genre of music, but in particular the Doves track ‘Firesuite’ and the Lovage track ‘Stroker Ace’ stand out brilliantly here, especially in the way they complement each other, with the slow buildup of the former cut contrasted with the gorgeous guitar loop utilized in the latter.
From this point on in the mix session however, things go back to hip hop, with a great mix into ‘The Rhumba’ by Bobby Digital leading things off. Of note in the final third of the album is the greater emphasis on actual beatmixing by Dan, the superb mix into ‘Don’t Understand’ by Masta Ace from ‘Bionix/Baby Phat’, and the second last track ‘Don’t Get It Twisted’ by the X-ecutioners, which will amaze with it’s incredible turntable trickery and technique.
Overall, this album works as a welcome burst of fresh air when compared to the millions upon millions of mixtapes that drop weekly from the more popular ‘DJs’ operating in the world of hip hop today. With it’s mixture of old and new tracks, it’s fairly short running time, and it’s emphasis on feel, rather than just presenting a mishmash of ill fitting tracks, this album truly epitomizes what a mixtape is. Plus, the inclusion of various styles of music will do what a mixtape should do – get you interested in something other than the same old same old.