If every track followed the form of the eyes-to-the-sky,
soul-horned “Nothing But Us,” 24 Hour Karate School would be
the trunk thumper of the fall. If Mos Def hadn’t gotten cold feet, ditching the
deliciously crafted beats Ski brewed for him on “Cream Of The Planet” and
“Taxi,” 24 Hour would have had another two singles of hot
fire. And if Ski had steered away from his inner Zeppelin-fan and a penchant for
heavily effected beats and muddled basslines, Karate School
would be a more driving, direct album. But Ski Beatz’s delayed 2010 diary is
what it is; the thoughts of a hip hop mastermind who’s got a brain filled with
dope beats piled on dope beats – if only he showed a little more discretion.
But as Smoke DZA pontificates on the lead track, “we higher than giraffe
Rubbing your ass with the silkiest second of abrupt
soul on the Mos Def-vacant “Taxi,” bobbing your head during a high-speed car
chase to the effortlessly flawless rapping of Wiz Khalifa and Currensy on
“Scaling the Building,” or building a Gothic cathedral of beats over a pulsing
vocal sample on “Super Bad”; there are some moments when Ski can’t help but
take you to heaven.
But the record suffers from infections of
unimagined rock and a producer who’s spending too much time fucking up the
hi-hat then making sure it works to carry a song. Though within these
“mistakes” moments of genius still shine through – the pairing of the
Slick Rick-hued rapping of Afro-funk progeny Tabi Bonney over a fizzingly
soft-bass loop on “Not Like Me”; the tremolo-caked keys of “Go”;
the laser blasted club bumper “Back Uptown.” Sometimes, it helps to keep your
mind in a haze.
But some decay is irrefutable: Cool Kids and
Stalley can’t help but sound bored on “Do It Big”(a busted boom box ode a la “It
Takes Two”), and if I ever hear the Skynyrd-jocking “I Got Mines” again, it will be
Albeit accident prone and not quite the triumphant
hip hop album it could have been, 24 Hour Karate School
represents a master’s experimentation, a study in minimalism and effected
beats, a line drawn from the Philadelphia soul scene to a Guitar Hero
controller in a basement in North Carolina.