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Dakah Hip Hop Orchestra: Unfinished Symphony

At the very least, you have to give this large ensemble an “A” for effort. While the combination of hip-hop and live instrumentation is hardly new, very few try to pull it off in such a grandiloquent style as here. Boasting a lineup that includes a 15-piece string section, 10 rappers and 14 horns, the Dakah Hip Hop Orchestra gives Greg Tate’s Burnt Sugar a good run for its money. But unlike Burnt Sugar’s heady melange of P-Funk, Miles Davis and Butch Morris, the erudite and the ambitious, Dakah Orchestra is more steeped in the feel-good vibe of the early-’90s acid jazz/hip-hop scene.

On Unfinished Symphony, a 12-song cycle divided into two movements, the group wraps swirling cinematic orchestral arrangements around various grooves that range from ass-gripping funk to swaying reggae. For a hip-hop perspective, none of the MCs offer any lyrical brilliance worthy of the opulent ambiance. Like many other ’90s-era jazz/hip-hop ensembles, the rappers can’t seem to get past the usual themes of yapping about the connections between the two genres. All of them demonstrate passable rhythmic flow, and they know how to employ jazz’s call-and-response techniques admirably. Still, you wish their rhymes had some lyrical depth in the vein of Nas, Common or Jay-Z.

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