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Kid Koala - Some of My Best Friends are DJs

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Artist: Kid Koala

Album: Some of My Best Friends are DJs

Label: Ninja Tune

Review date: Oct. 5, 2003

Kid Koala is the smartest, funniest DJ in hip-hop today, maybe ever. So if Some Of My Best Friends Are DJs doesn’t do anything that wasn’t done on his enthralling 2000 LP Carpal Tunnel Syndrome – and if, at a scant 35 minutes, it’s almost over before you notice it’s on – it’s still worth hearing.

To say that Kid Koala plays experimental noise, not hip-hop (and I’ve heard it said) is an insult to the versatility and humor that remain crucial (if too often neglected) facets of hip-hop survivalism. He’s hip-hop, even if he’s also goofy. Too smart for his own good? When he backs up MCs, he knows he can only get away with so much, and he keeps the beat with the best of them.

But on his own, I’d say he’s primarily a comedian. Listen to those old cut-in routines DJs used to do in the 1950s, or listen to any old-time radio comedy, and you might see what I’m driving at.

Media critic Douglas Rushkoff says that “[i]f you look at a lot of so-called musicians today, they’re really deejays and what are deejays but surrogate consumers, people who know what are the good sounds, what are the good tracks, and they play their record collections for us.” Kid Koala might cop to being a surrogate consumer, and he certainly wants to draw some attention to himself (there’s no good mockery without at least a hint of self-mockery), but he doesn’t so much know what are the “good sounds” so much as what sounds sound funny next to one another. He’s a juxtaposition artist. And he’s even better at Negativland in its prime.

There are dope beats here, but Some Of My Best Friends Are DJs stashes its soul in its interludes. “Grandmaphone Speaks,” a quick jab at the record-as-product, leads into “Skanky Panky.” You know how with a lot of sample-anchored tracks, if you haven’t heard the original you don’t catch the fact that it’s sampled at all because it’s cut so clean? “Skanky Panky” ain’t one of those tracks. Tooting horns and a skittering beat are cut together in a way that’s gotta be INTENTIONALLY sloppy. Like a lot of what the Kid does, “Skanky Panky” makes it impossible to forget that you’re listening to music by someone whose medium is juxtaposition. I mean, shit, one of the best numbers here is “Bonus Materials: On the Set of Fender Bender,” which is nothing more than deleted scenes from one of the big hits from Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.

At their best, his… oh, let’s just call them collages… his collages break new ground in what we’ll henceforth think of as “catchy.”

Here are the hits: “Annie’s Parlor,” a maddeningly repetitive hook with all sorts of eerie business underneath; “More Dance Music,” a witty, hand-clappin’, finger-snappin’ music box of the future; and “Stompin’ at Le Savoy,” a mean grind more bluesy than anything a DJ has gotten away with in some time.

And, as things wind down, we get “Vacation Island,” which doesn’t exactly beat Tipsy when it comes to blending mid-century “exotica” with turn-of-the-century beat science, but still has some fun relaxing in the sun.

By Emerson Dameron

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