I am probably one of the only people in the world who listened to this new Neako album (his first full-length release, according to the fine folks at Wikipedia) and immediately thought of one of the few movies I still own on VHS, namely Conan the Barbarian (the original, of course - I would never see the 2011 version, if only because of the clear oversight in not casting Cee Lo as an updated Thulsa Doom). And why did this Eastern-flavored hip-hop record bring Conan to mind, you ask? Simple: the line in "I Made It All" where Neako raps "And every lady in my stable is so crazy", because Conan is always the first thing I think of when I hear women referred to in the same terms as livestock ("and he also came to know the pleasures of women, when he was bred to the finest stock"). Well, that and Catherine the Great, but all of those horse rumors are nothing more than dirty lies.
Where was I again? Oh yes, listening to the new Neako album. Given the general Internet silence regarding this man, I'm guessing that I'm not the only person who had never heard of him before today. However, given the quality of this record, the oversight is a damn shame. Because despite his penchant for treating his ladies like horses, this is possibly the most musically inventive hip hop album I've heard since starting this blog, and certainly one of the most interesting to listen to. On almost every track (and especially as the record progressives), Neako mixes Eastern-flavored strings, flutes, and percussion with blips, bloops, and spacey, synth-based beats to produce something akin to what I imagine might happen if Drake decided to record an album in a nightclub in Jakarta. He also has a smooth, changeable flow and demonstrates decent word play (like on "Levitate", where he raps "Tell me is this real life/Real life/Is this shit supposed to feel like/Real life/I don't know but it don't feel right/Feels like/I'm a keep holding the wheel tight/Real tight").
Because I preferred the music to the words on this album, the tracks I liked best were those with rich, interesting backgrounds. For me, therefore, standouts include "To The Max", where keyboard notes mix with Eastern-flavored plucked strings and brassy, hollow percussion (less brassy than the clang of my one-year-old banging the turkey roasting pan on the floor, but his instincts are sound) and "Super Bowl", an uptempo number with a super funky, low, bubbling beat over which dissonant strings compete with flutes to accent the words ("Fuckin' mad hoes like we won the super bowl/Spending mad dough like we won the Super Bowl/Christian Dior clothes every day Super Bowl"). The best track on the record (both musically and lyrically) is "All A Dream" featuring K2, whose percussive xylophone-style beat brings to mind a gamelan, especially when combined with the flute and dinging that dance on top of it to create an other-worldly mix that zaps the listener into the dreamland of the song ("I had a dream that you never came back/Purse laid in the room right where you laid at/Your mother told me that you went away/Didn't give me a fuckin' clue/It was out of the blue"). As I'm sure you've been expecting me to say for a while now, the only-not-so-good thing about this record is the predictability of the subject matter (mostly money, lotsa hoes), which demonstrates far less originality than the music behind it deserves. I'll be curious to see what this guy does next, 'cause it could be GREAT if he throws out the lyrical playbook and decides to get personal. In the meantime... Enough talk! Into the boat!