Detroit has a long and storied history as a hotbed of musical genius. The Motor City’s lineage can be traced from the likes of the legendary Stevie Wonder all the way through to the late great James Yancy. Even with J Dilla’s passing, the past decade has seen The D make its presence especially felt in hip-hop; with Apollo Brown, Black Milk, Karriem Riggins, and Tall Black Guy all establishing themselves with their distinctive individual sounds and garnering more accolades than a drunk chick at last call. It’s time to make room at the big boy table however, there’s a new chairman of the boards and his name is Sacramento Knoxx.
According to his bandcamp page, Rise of The Turtle is the seventh release in 2012 from the prolific producer and if this odyssey of Filthy McNasty isn’t enough to put him on the map I don’t know what is. Sacramento Knoxx does marvelous things with samples, choosing bits and pieces of our cultural fabric and flipping them in novel ways. His drums and other percussive elements seem constructed specifically to tickle the synapses that send messages for your head to nod. Knoxx’s beats knock and thump throughout this 28-track opus and he employs the low end liberally, but it has personality and it’s not there just for the sake of filling space.
Jadakiss once said (about rhyming over Biggie’s “Who Shot Ya”): “You have to be in a certain weight class to fuck with this beat.” The same goes for making beats, and while many beatmakers have elected to lift sounds from martial arts flicks, sampling the GOAT, Bruce Lee, is by extension declaring that you’ve got not only the cajones to sample one of the greatest ever but the skills to do it justice. Sacramento Knoxx does the producer equivalent of barging through the doors of a rival karate school with “@Knockzarelli da God,” taking Lalo Schifrin’s original Enter the Dragon theme to a funky new plateau. “Ego Killa” is dope enough that if the icons of the repeat button of your sound system can be worn down to nothing, they will be. He cuts, chops, and dices Lauryn Hill’s verse on The Fugee’s “How Many Mics” into bits, rearranging them strategically to kick off an infectiously head-nodding composition that rivals any man-made contagion.
80’s babies should brace themselves for one joint in particular, “Showing Up is Half the Battle.” My initial reaction was “Dafuq? I KNOW this cat didn’t just sample the Cobra theme from that G.I. Joe animated movie from back in the day, did he?” Short answer? Affirmative. Then the beat dropped, as did my jaw. This is some Abu Nazir shit, straight up. This beat is a credible threat to national security. I wanted to grab a pyoon-pyoon gun and start lighting people up with blue laser blasts like it was 1987 all over again. When Sacramento Knoxx is good, he’s really good, he’s got the type of ear for music that you want to get up and do something, anything, when you hear some of his creations.
And when he’s not? Not even applicable. Sacramento Knoxx is a mad scientist producer’s producer with a floor higher than most other cat’s ceilings because his sound is that polished and carefully constructed. For an instrumental album The Rise of The Turtle does a masterful job of keeping the listener engaged in the absence of lyrics. Knoxx’s beats are bold, compelling, and assertive, and this a labor of love that it’s apparent he put all of himself into, from the undeniable Dilla influence to the nods to his Anishnabe-Ojibwe heritage.
- T. Love