DJ Yoda - Chop Suey
Imagine for one hot minute you're in possession of the jaw-dropping slice-em-and-dice-em turntablist talents of DJ Yoda. You've produced albums that have taken the art of mix-tapes to a whole new level, toured with Goldie and hang with artists like Jaguar Skills and DJ Food, knocking out tracks. Your inbox is overflowing with requests from artists who want to collaborate with you, appear on your tracks or get one of your instrumentals or remixes in their grubby little paws.
Little wonder then, that once again the British DJ and producer has pulled together a substantial all-star cast for his first straight release for some time – testament to his status within the business on both sides of the Atlantic and beyond.
Yoda's madcap curatorial and selection skills are in boss mode – hip hop old-schooler Greg Nice, Manchester grime collective Virus Syndicate, 80s pop star Boy George, North London's Sway, NY chef-turned-rapper Action Bronson, honeyed soul singer Alice Russell, ska-grime creatives Man Like Me and hardcore rap wordsmiths M.O.P. all make the roll-call – and there's more.
Chop Suey also features the amazing combination of Kid Creole, his Coconuts and British rapper Roots Manuva, Balkan music crazies the Trans-Siberian March Band, the awesome duo of Soom T and Afrikan Boy, lyricist Scroobius Pip, and…Michael Winslow aka Police Academy's 'Motor Mouth' and self-declared 'Man Of 10,000 Sound Effects'. Woah.
On screen or paper this collection of artists, MCs and singers looks like the kind that Damon Albarn with his musical megalomaniac aspirations might attempt to gather in a studio in Kinshasa for another wacky project. On record, it's the bomb diggity, full of killer cameos layered over a stack of driving instrumentals. Mixmaster gold.
Of course each guest has their own track to work, and some are inevitably stronger than others, but as overall flow and listenability go, Chop Suey is pretty fucking awesome.
The album takes all of eighty-nine seconds to step up to the mark, bouncing from a booming introduction of bass and breaks into the chunky Beastie Boys type beats and High Contrast style D&B of 'Charlie Sheen', with old-schooler Greg Nice on the mic. Winning already and we're only on the second track with not a drop of tiger blood spilt. Amazing.
There are nods to soundsystem, DJ and rap battle culture throughout, yet what's most impressive is the diversity of styles amongst just thirteen tracks. It's as if Yoda has made a conscious decision to go for quality over quantity – not that quality has ever been an issue for him, but this recording just seems so much more polished and, dare we say it, mature. It makes for a blinding mix, and one that doesn't just owe its success to the artists appearing.
Specifically, the comedic samples which have hallmarked previous Yoda releases have been toned down on Chop Suey, for the better, and from the upbeat dancehall on 'Interview' featuring the Virus Syndicate lads on a lothario tip, to 'Pizza''s acid-house with jungle overtones perfectly matched by Sway's vocals, and Man Like Me's pure Hot Chip meets Major Lazer in a dark alley turn on 'Idiot', we're listening to a sleeker and refined production.
As far as standout tracks go, 'U No Likey Like That' is heavyweight, complete with its brazen lyrics, Kid Creole and Roots Manuva and plenty of cowbell – not an easy combination to master by any stretch. Scroobius Pip's tribute to the Master Systems and Mega Drives up in some big console graveyard in the sky on 'Sega', complete with references to Gamesmaster magazine and Ekko the Dolphin, is bonkers but fantastic.
As an early vocal sample declares, 'chop suey…everything is in it…all mixed up', there's a lot of content in here but at the same time, just the right amount.
There's a time and a place for the mixtape. In DJ Yoda's case, it's anytime and anyplace. Brilliant.