Damned If You Miss This...
Released in 2002, The Amazing Assaf's second album,Damned If You Do, Damned If You Don't, like its predecessor makes you forget any preconceptions about contemporary Hip Hop you might have had. Again, no loops, no sequencers, samples, drum machines or the like, but real instruments, all played by the Amazing Assaf himself. And again, real grooves too, strong, cool grooves and beats mixing Hip Hop
with elements of funk, Latin, even Rai, Rapso and steel pan. No mere gimmicks and effects for their own sake here. Instead there's the Amazing Assaf's blend of inventive creativity, ideas, adventurism and genuine, even outstanding, musicianship. As with Explicit Lifestyles, the lyrics on Damned If You Do, Damned If You Don't can actually be clearly, distinctly and easily understood, and again are of the same high quality without solely depending on explicit profanities.
Having practically redefined the Hip Hop genre with his first album, The Amazing Assaf continues to amaze with Damned If You Do, Damned If You Don't. It is again much, much more than merely a "thinking man's" Hip Hop. This is music that has something to say and does so articulately and eloquently, and that in the process remains accessible and eminently listenable-to. Jazz and classic rock influences are clearly discernable in the Amazing Assaf's cool, laid back percussion style, with Zappaesque influences particularly evident in the lyrics. The drumming and other percussion are as tight and inventive as ever, but you really wouldn't expect anything less from probably the greatest percussion phenomenon on the contemporary British hip hop scene.
Damned If You Do, Damned If You Don't is again a thoroughly consistent album with no weak tracks, always fresh and refreshing with loads of wit and style. Original and always surprising with something new or unexpected, this fine album is at once if anything even a touch more experimental, as well as a somewhat more mature effort than its already excellent predecessor. As its title might suggest, the opener Hip Hop Hoo Rai is a subtle blend of Hip Hop and Rai with some fine guitar work and riffs. A Waste Of Space provides a strong contrast with its strongly progressive rock influenced groove and beat, not to mention lyrics and vocal arrangement. Yet more contrast follows in the form of the witty and even humorous Funky Bella, and again in the slightly darker Bad, bad World. My Love is almost a tender love song and wickedly witty both lyrically and musically. A rage-against-the-machine affair, Politically Incorrecta MC is no less wickedly witty. It's real wicked, in the street-lingo sense, but then, so's this whole amazing album by The Amazing Assaf. Welcome To The XXX AA cleverly - and without trying to be clever - focuses the attention wholly on the lyrics with its subtle and subdued groove. Heavy rock leanings again come to the fore with Something Better, real cool guitar solo and great lyrics and vocals too. Rapso and steel pan touches define Tickle Me And Giggle, with a superb and beautifully restrained, understated synth pan part that sounds remarkably realistic and percussion that could have come straight out of one of the best "engine rooms" (percussion section of a steel band). Strictly Hop is distinguished by its driven beat that leaves you breathless. A feverishly dreamy instrumental reprise of the groove of My Love, My Love (Chaos Theory Remix), leads to the title track and closer, Damned If You Do, Damned If You Don't. Its lyrical acoustic guitar groove contrasts strongly with the lyrics, among the most thought-provoking on this album.
It would be extremely difficult not to like this superb album by The Amazing Assaf. Each track on Damned If You Do, Damned If You Don't would make for a great single, too, and would give some real meaning to the charts other than "this sh*t sold x-number of copies to all the musically deaf and blind suckers out there" that is the only meaning left in them. If you thought Hip Hop was all loops and sequencers and boring and monotonous, grab this album and let it show you a whole new musical experience. If you are a Hip Hop fan already, grab The Amazing Assaf's Damned If You Do, Damned If You Don't and discover what real genius can do with this genre.
Currently putting the finishing touches to his third album, to be reviewed here as soon as it comes off the presses, The Amazing Assaf usually also maintains a busy gig schedule with his band consisting of Assaf himself on lead vocals, percussion and guitar, Theo Scipio on bass guitar and backing vocals, ace multi-instrumentalist Koby Israelite on drums, and Limmie Snell on beatbox, lead and backing vocals. They can usually be heard in all the top London Hip Hop clubs and other great venues mainly in and around the London area, so keep a look-out!
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