San Francisco is a place where many things- architecture, music, and food among them-have a unique texture. SF hip-hop similarly gets away with placing seemingly obscure music concepts into the same room and forcing them to get along. 40 Love--comprising four primary members; Miss Haze and G-Off as lyricists and MCs, Mikos and the Whooligan as DJ and producer respectively--incorporate four distinct musical styles into a hip-hop format. Long respected by musical peers in their genre as well as the underground scene, 40 Love embraces the beats and sounds of old-school hip-hop, carefully measured with a trip-hop electric overlay--parts of the music become almost cosmic at the most appropriate moments. Primarily, it is this musical quality that brings cohesion and form to a lyrical content stripped to its bare and naked essentials. They have integrated a sound that mirrors the classic artists of San Francisco -cool sophistication layered with self-aware consciousness, making for a distinct album that's sure to entice and delight hip-hop heads across the world.
At first glance, the cosmic elements of their style readily suggest elements of hip-hop obscura--artists like Aesop Rock, Quasimodo or Bahamadia are easily part of the same ethnomusicological thread. What 40 Love has that these others do not is a layered and varied sound that has a continuous rhythmic motif running through several tracks. "Bout to Bloom" is an example of the signaturel 40 Love style- a mixture of classic hip-hop, slam poet rhyme scheme and free verse. The rhythm and bass sections have a modulated synthesized tempo that moves the song consistently and effortlessly to resolution. "Radio" employs a similar musical disguise--again all the techno elements of the synthesized , stripped-back beat mesh with a reggae overlay, repeating as a harmonic melody that is modulated to the point that it sounds metallic.
The instrumentation is phenomenal- I enjoy the use of archaic instruments like the "Tiki-Tiki" track that uses a harpsichord as the melodic overtone or "Infinite Potential Part I"--which includes some of the most lilting and haunting clouds of sound ever placed in the hip-hop idiom. More than anything what makes this album is the careful attention to the melodic and rhythmic fundamentals of the bygone hip-hop period which allows the fluidity to mix aspects of reggae, rock, jazz and techno in to the nooks, niches and crannies of the musical notation, to give a full bodied and relevant hip-hop sound for the next generation. Lyrically, Dreams Don't Sleep left me pondering the overall message of the album and hopeful that this type of musical ingenuity will continue on their next.