I picked this up a few months ago in a used bin after years of searching, and I've been keeping it bumping since that fateful day. I can't really say what it is that I find so compelling about this 2005 cd (besides the thrill of getting that sought-after prize), but I do know it obviously caters to my particular tastes. It has that sound I crave; any of you that know me or read the blog probably know what I mean. It's raw, R-A-W, rough, unmastered, youthful, murky, unpolished, all that stuff that I love the most in my hip hop. Beyond that, it has that jazzy, depressed, caffeine-and-zoloft-ingesting sound so indicative of oldschool Seattle music, also a big plus in my book.
I guess I could say what I like most about this record is how obviously their influences are mirrored in their music, but how distorted and cracked that mirror is! Right off the bat, you can hear RZA. He's there in the loops, the low-budget sound quality, and in the thematic elements of the musical content and vocal samples (all taken from Transformers cartoons). Likewise the combination of hardcore and consciousness found in the Wu is approximated here. But where RZA's beats effortlessly burst with energy and drive, the music the Several Active Minds make is clunky, subdued, and endearingly awkward. Beats seem cluttered or too slow, the loops at times seem arbitrarily chosen. Don't get me wrong though: despite how that may sound written, I love the way it works out. The music has a life of it's own, it's fresh. The music chugs along like a coal-burning locomotive, mechanical and oldschool, in contrast to RZA's silent, ambient-light-and-magnetism-powered bullet train. Mood and color are present in the music, but not the gloss.
Strangely, the personalities so explosive in the Wu Tang are absent here. Nearly everyone in the Wu is a celebrity in their own right, instantly discernible in a crowd. With Several Active Minds, the emcees don't hype themselves up, there are no endless name-checks, and all have that similar sedated voice and flow. These guys rap from the shadows - it's a very anonymous undertaking. I could guess this is due to Seattle mainstay Dume 41, the obvious engineer of this particular engine, who produced most of the beats, and who I have the feeling orchestrated the image. And it's evident that the various emcees present on this album (and there are a lot listed) are pretty unpolished, (except for Dume) when this record was made- again a good thing.
According to their bio, Several Active Minds have existed since '92 as a graf crew, and with various changes in roster have been putting down tapes and cd's since '96. On this album the Minds consist of Dume 41, Abu Dar, M.O.D., Sincere Wudu, Skiez, and Severe Influence. Specs One joins on the mic on a couple tracks, and provides beats on "1st Duel", "Sub 0 Transmogrification" and "Overpros". Vision 20/20 is also listed as a member on their website, but in all their promo photos I only see Dume 41 and a couple other dudes. They also name-check Gang Starr and ATCQ as influences, but I only hear that as far as their oldschool aesthetic and conscious subject matter. Really, I honestly think they're selling themselves short by making comparisons - Several Active Minds is dope, unique hip hop. I tracked down their 2007 release, Shogun Craftsman, and was pleased to hear their sound hadn't changed much - at times, they even got rougher! Rad. I bump it a ton.
Strangely enough, many of the songs on Constructicon Mathematics were reworked for Dume 41's 2008 solo joint God Save the King. Much more polished, but still owning that sedate NW sound, it's a dope record. Like this one. Listen.