Paul White: An Englishman with strange dreams and sick psychedelic beats
Long story short: if you like hip-hop along the lines of J Dilla's Donuts, listen to the 2009 album The Strange Dreams of Paul White, by Paul White. It's out in the US on Stone's Throw Records, the label Donuts was released on. You can put it on when you're chilling out alone or with a few friends and it will make you happy.
Now. Who is Paul White and why haven't we all heard about him? He's a foreigner whose stuff appears on a first-rate US hip-hop label (Stone's Throw is the home of Madlib/Madvillain and Peanut Butter Wolf among others), and that album, Strange Dreams, got glowing press in the UK. FACT Magazine listed it on their top 40 albums of 2009 (beating Major Lazer) and called him "one of Britain's most promising producers." And yet here in the US, the all-reviewing, opinion-shaping entity that is Pitchfork did not even review any of his albums. He has no Wikipedia page. His discography is a mess of beat-tape style LPs and EPs. He heavily samples 70s prog and psychedelic rock. You can download a slew of radio mixes he's done if you know where to look, and they give the impression that he's a bottomless well of great ideas when it comes to mixing and making beats. Intrigued yet?
He's very much a hip-hop artist making hip-hop beats, not some experimental-minded dabbler fucking around with a cross-fader. But what sets him apart immediately from US hip-hop producers is the different set of samples he draws from, likely due to the English character of his crate-digging activities. A very much intact and recognizable sample of King Crimson's 21st Century Schizoid Man jumps out at the listener on track 3, Uprising of the Insane. I got really excited when I picked out the coughing intro from Black Sabbath's Sweet Leaf on one of his radio mixes (the M.A.Hobbs mix for Radio 1 freely available on his Last.fm page). His latest album, July 2010's Paul White and the Purple Brain, is based entirely around the work of "little-known Swedish psych-rock guru S.T. Mikael" according to Andrew Meza of BTS Radio. His DJ set promoting that album on BTS radio (check it out here) ends with tracks by the likes of Pharaoh Sanders and Can.
Despite brimming with new ideas, his work is refreshingly clear and uncluttered. It's catchy enough to be satisfying, but not just about hooks. You can turn it on and zone out, but it pays to listen closely, too. His Band Camp website (http://paulwhite.bandcamp.com/) offers a service for 250 Pounds ($391) whereby you can send him two samples of your own choosing which he will then turn into personalized beats that you own the rights to. His Band Camp site also advises the reader about buying his new album, "This money goes straight to Paul White (once he's paid off his corporate overlords) and is quickly spent on new records, which are then sampled and given back to you. So it's a form of recycling your money, rather than spending it exactly..." Truly inspiring words to come from the hip-hop underground. So enough about Paul White, check him out already. But don't expect the next J Dilla, just an awesome guy on his own crazy trip.
In other news, Mr. White isn't the only Stone's Throw artist making the leap between prog/kraut/psych and hip-hop. Madlib recently jammed out with 70's kraut rock giants Embryo, and they'll be playing live in Berlin together with J Rocc in October, with recorded output also in the works. Kraut rock and hip-hop: two great tastes that taste great together?