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Mike Ladd: Easy Listening for Armageddon

Mike Ladd has more going for# him than just some deep thoughts and dope phrasing, though both get a full showcase on Easy Listening for Armageddon (Scratchie Records/Mercury, 314-534-839-2, 51:24). He also has an unerring ear for how to accompany himself, accentuating his pointed musings (and the most weatherbeaten voice outside of Method Man) with a dreamy abstract backing that can make even the boys from Bristol do a double take. Whether he’s ruminating on digital-age alienation (“Bladerunner”) or sexual longing (“Padded Walls”), Ladd applies a poet’s editing process to his tracks: the mutated guitar on “Back Stroke;” “Kissing Kecia” ‘s teasing strings. Ignoring the all too common impulse to pile texture on top of texture, Ladd constructs 12 tracks that cajole as effectively as his richly imagistic poetry. The best hip-hop album you’ll never see in the hip-hop bins or a member of the elite class of spoken word projects; by whatever description, it’s still one of the most affecting, involving discs you’ll hear for a while.

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