Big Quarters: Party Like A Young Commie
Lake City Browns

How can one not get behind a hip-hop duo dedicated to supporting all kinds of worthy community-based causes? Outside of Big Quarters' music-related endeavours, brothers “Brandon Allday” Bagaason and “Medium Zach” Bagaason have spent several years promoting hip-hop culture and opportunities for young people in Minneapolis and Saint Paul through the Minneapolis YMCA and McNally Smith College of Music (specifically through developing and teaching the school's Hip-Hop Music Production curriculum). Not only that, but proceeds from CD sales of their third album, Party Like A Young Commie (after 2007's self-produced debut album Cost of Living and 2009's From the Home of Brown Babies & White Mothers) will go towards Youth Programming at Hope Community in Minneapolis and upgrading the Hope Community Music Studio.

All well and good, but does the album itself hold up? Indeed it does. One hesitates to use the term old-school in speaking of Party Like A Young Commie because the material is anything but old-fashioned—classic more accurately captures the group's melodic boom-bap. Lyrically, the album addresses serious themes, political and social in equal measure, but isn't so serious that it doesn't make room for lighthearted moments, too. The group powers its flow with woodsy bass lines, sampled beats, turntable scratching (by Noam the Drummer on “And We Grew Up To Be Somebody” and DJ Judo on “Tumbler”), and soulful vocals (courtesy of Mankwe Ndosi on “Perfect Match”), and warms its material with acoustic touches, such as flutes (“New Plateau”) and trumpets (“Follow Me Through”). The downtempo flow of “Pure,” to cite one example, gets a strong kick from the groan of the driving acoustic bass and the smooth purr of the alto sax. Cuts like “New Plateau” and “C'mon” speak powerfully for Big Quarters' classic sound, with the latter especially boombastic in the ferocity of its Bomb Squad-styled backdrop, while the furious scratching on “Tumbler” harks back to hip-hop's formative years. Smooth cuts such as the buoyant “Perfect Match,” “Low Highs,” and “Savings Bonds” find Big Quarters serving up a sunny and melodic sound of the kind polished to perfection by CYNE. The thirty-eight-minute collection also includes an occasional instrumental vignette (the afro-funk “Hey” interlude) plus a loose and soulful live jam (“When The Head Connects With the Body”). Positive, socially conscious, forward-thinking—all such epithets apply in describing Big Quarters' community-minded hip-hop.

January 2012