The Experienced Listener Presents: The 808 Experiment Vol. 1 by SMKA…
First of all, I’m southern. As a matter of fact, we’ll just come out and say that I rep the Dirty South by way of Augusta, Georgia. Which means that, when I hear the term ‘808’, I automatically reflect back to the ATL bass movement, circa ’95-’96— DJ Kizzy Rock, DJ Smurf, So So Def Bass Allstars, My Boo, Love U Down, etc. And I take that sound very seriously; so seriously, in fact, that when Kanye West releases 808’s and Heartbreak, my heart literally is broken. Why? Because that is not my beloved, freakin’, thick-bottomed, 808 bass on that album… NOPE!
Fast-forward to 2009: SMKA releases their mixtape, The 808 Experiment: Vol. 1. I have no idea who SMKA is, but I see ‘Atlanta’ and ‘808’ in the reviews. Could this mixtape be what 808’s and Heartbreak could not? Well…
The very first song on the mixtape loops the beginning of the old school classic, Love Don’t Live Here Anymore by Rose Royce. Then it samples Andre 3000’s voice repeating, “Every day we looked up at the ceilin’; watchin’ ceiling fans go ‘round, tryin’ to catch that feelin’ off instrumentals”— a line straight off of ATLiens (my favorite album of all time). And then… it kicks woofers with earth-shattering, soul-shaking 808 bass, equalized just right to make anybody’s trunk sound like Real Steel, if you feel me. And at this point, my soul cries out: “It is good! It is sound! It is BASS!”
The 808 Experiment: Vol. 1 comes to me at a time when I was through with radio; from the time I seize it, I have 20 tracks that are better options than anything Souljah Boy could tell me. And it’s cool because they’re new tracks; Lord knows my musical tastes had regressed dramatically. The album is produced by SMKA, but it features a plethora of unsigned-hype artists from Atlanta and abroad. Impressively, some of the artists are fairly young, around high school age.
(I would like to take a moment to thank the younger artists on this mixtape for proving to my students that just because you’re 16-18 doesn’t mean you hafta be stupid or lack creativity.)
Quickly following the first track, another OutKast sampling drives home the point that ATLANTA BUILT THIS MIXTAPE. Caddy’s, featuring Gripplyaz, Young Trimm, and A.leon Craft, includes a sample of Big Boi saying, “wanting to live the life of Cadillacs, Impalas, and Regals”, thus popping a quiz on the listener to see what you really know about the Dirty South.
Though I’ve spoken a lot about 808 bass, I must clarify that this isn’t some booty-mix compilation. As a matter of fact, the only song on the album that remotely fits that description is Alien, featuring Jay West, Savage, and Giles. I must’ve played this song for days on end after I first heard it. Though it’s definitely a bass track, I would say that it’s more Miami bass than ATL bass because of the congas and tambourines. But the tempo is more mellow than the high-paced, Uncle Luke-type track that comes to mind, so the ATL bass legacy is definitely in there.
Now, if you know me, you know I don’t do the hardcore club-banger-type tracks. …You know, the tracks like, “Step up in the club, frontin’ like a thug; missed a couple hugs…” But the 808 Experiment: Vol. 1 manages to slip one or two in under my radar. The song I Already Know, featuring Double R & Nuff Sed… made even me contradict myself. The beat forces you to give it a listen. And once Double R comes on, all you can think is, “Tupac”; his vocal tone and delivery have undeniable similarities to the most R.I.P.’d MC in history. Another club-banger that grabbed my attention is Bang, featuring Disciples & Double R, making his second appearance. This time, however, it’s not Double R who steals the show; the second verse of the song, delivered by rapper Billz, features a delivery that just— in my humble opinion— owns the whole track. Double R on the last verse is just the icing on the cake.
The rest of the album… is diverse to say the least. When I say ‘diverse’, it features American Idol contestant Alexandrea Lushington on the skate-rink anthem, My Heart; it grinds long and slow with electronic accompaniment on the ballad You’re My Shawty, featuring Brandon Michaels; it shows intellect and introspection with the track ’Til it’s Gone featuring Dee Rail & Fat Tony; it runs amok (simultaneously running train) on the track I’m On Fire, featuring Supreeme & Fat Tony; it even goes to the wop old school style on the track I’m Bumpin, featuring Niko Villamor (this song is CRACK; BEWARE!).
I also love the way that the album ends; I love it so much that I’m not going to ruin it for you. I’ll only say that Double R makes his third appearance alongside rapper J.Beans and that you won’t believe what sample they use for the track. It really speaks to the unbridled musical force that is SMKA.
And on that note, I would like to thank SMKA for bringing the 808 torch back to Atlanta from those who might use it in vain. No disrespect, but 808 bass is like southern cuisine; if you don’t know whatcha doin’ in there, don’t fix me a plate. SO serious :-\