Da Grassroots keep it original

ERROL NAZARETH

, Last Updated: 4:32 PM ET

Da Grassroots, the gifted local hip-hop production squad, and I are rhapsodizing about the sonic glory producers like The Bomb Squad, Prince Paul, Howie T, and Marley Marl injected into the hip-hop genre -- and the inevitable question pops up.

 "When is it gonna go back to those days when people created music that had changes, bridges and stuff like that?" asks Mr. Attic, who, along with Mr. Murray and Swiff, recently released Passage Through Time, their incredibly musical debut album.

 Attic's question addresses the cynical, creatively bankrupt cookie-cutter approach adopted by so many of his contemporaries over the last few years. You know the m.o.: Sample a recognizable jam from a decade or two ago, lace it with some lame raps and run all the way to the bank.

 Come on, do you think Will Smith believes he did something grand with his rip-off of those Stevie Wonder and Clash songs?

 Go ahead and call me a hater, but if that means gravitating to intelligent production -- Organized Noise and Toronto's Citizen Kane, Down Ta Erf and Da Grassroots come to mind -- then I'm proud to be a hater.

 Featuring local rappers Thrust, K-OS, Saukrates, Choclair, Mr. Roam, Elemental, Ghetto Concept, Cryp2nite and Marvel, among others, Passage Through Time sees Da Grassroots turning a pop formula (one group soliciting a dozen producers in an attempt to make a hit record) on its head by recording a disc featuring several artists working with one producer.

 "We make a beat that suits an MC's personality, or sometimes it's just a feeling we want to get across," Mr. Murray says, explaining how the trio makes music.

 Passage Through Time offers ample proof that Da Grassroots have studied the styles of the rhyme slingers who appear on this disc. On jams like Eternal, which features Thrust and K-OS, or Thematics, featuring Arcee, the music and lyrical flow perfectly complement each other.

 No surprise, then, that several MCs have approached Da Grassroots since the record hit the streets.

 Incidentally, Da Grassroots' sound isn't the only thing causing ears to prick up.

 "When people hear my stuff, they don't believe I use an EPS 16 Plus (sampler)," Attic says, adding that the tool of choice for most producers is the SP-1200. "They're surprised that I get a natural sound as opposed to a mechanical sound.

 "It's about nine years old but it works for me."

 Works for us, too.


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