Imagine Public Enemy's Bomb Squad detonating explosives under the prog-rock grooves of German experimental behemoths Can. These ideas seem mutually exclusive, but they're not. The evidence is in the shrapnel funk of Late Pass, the third album from Anticon co-founder Jel. As the scarred vocals of the title track instruct: Don't get too comfortable. For those unfamiliar with the Chicago-bred, Bay Area-based producer / rapper born Jeffrey Logan, he's on the shortlist for best indie rap producer of the last decade. Admittedly, this sort of hyperbole comes standard issue on one sheets, but Jel has the necessary résumé. His career traces back to Deep Puddle Dynamics, a group featuring Slug of Atmosphere and Jel's frequent collaborator, Doseone. Later in Subtle, Themselves and 13 & God, Jel and Dose's blitzkrieg experimentations remain visionary and futuristic-they're also among the few times rock and rap have successfully gotten high together. Most recently, Jel co-produced the Kenny Dennis EP and C.A.R. with Odd Nosdam for labelmate Serengeti, two similarly brilliant blends of high-concept ideas, hover-converted boom bap and the occasional rib tip sandwich. On paper, it seems a little strange that Late Pass is only his third official solo record. But not when one considers it's meticulousness. Six years in the making, Late Pass was casually co-produced by Odd Nosdam at his cottage studio, Burnco Berkeley, just blocks from the legendary Fantasy Studios. And it was at Fantasy that engineer Jesse Nichols assisted on the album's final mix, blowing the icing off the cake with the very same model SSL mixing board that Dr. Dre favored throughout the late '80s and '90s. In a 2006 online Q&A for Esquire Magazine, Jel expressed to Quincy Jones that "It's never too late man, never too late to take as much time needed to finish an album, to finish it right." Late Pass was fully baked by mastering guru Daddy Kev. Successfully reconciling warring ideas, Late Pass is noisy and intense but it swings enough to make your head nod. It's a psychedelic sample collage, but one that avoids the usual clichés. It isn't trippy or cinematic. You might recognize some of your favorite rap lines turned distorted and sunburned. It will leave you dizzy, not because of a druggy vibe, but because your face has been slapped and your head spun around several times.
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