On their third full-length release, Potatohead People widen the frame of their progressive musical vision and deliver a far-reaching yet approachable set of moods and grooves.
Mellow Fantasy continues to showcase the trademark instrumental prowess of the duo and their ease with the loose but hard-hitting drum style brought to the fore by Jay Deeâ€™s influential productions, but goes well beyond basic boom bap bread and butter, with singer-centered R&B and uptempo bumps sharing the stage.
Beginning in 2008 as a Vancouver-based hip-hop production team, Potatohead People (Nick Wisdom and AstroLogical) have collaborated with a fantasy league of MCs, including Frank Nitt of Frankâ€™nâ€™Dank (the 2013 breakout jam â€œBack To My Shitâ€), Illa J (producing an entire album for J. Dillaâ€™s younger brother) and the late Phife Dawg (the beloved A Tribe Called Quest co-founderâ€™s last recorded verse was over one of their beats).
Setting them apart from other Dilla-influenced beatmakers is the way they push the scope of the style, working the corners with their own unique touch. At its most basic, â€œthe goal has always been making really dope loops,â€ they explain. By using slices of their own rough instrumental ideas, finding â€œa chord progression or texture that you can hear again and again and never question it,â€ theyâ€™ve taken this fundamental concept and elevated it to new levels of melodic, harmonically complex music.
A jazz-like responsiveness to the input of collaborators is a key component of how the team works. â€œWe like to get the artist involved when the beat is an early idea, and build the beat around the vocals, getting inspired by what they do.â€
On Mellow Fantasy, they had some impressive inspiration. Pos from De La Soul immediately connected with â€œBaby Got Work,â€ a sophisticated slap that went through several iterations before settling into its ultimate form. Appropriately, the songâ€™s diligent construction echoes the ethic of the grind in the clear-eyed, precisely dovetailed lyrics fans have come to expect from the Daisy Age don. â€œBaby Got Workâ€ is the albumâ€™s lead single, hitting on 9/25/20.
Befitting Potatohead Peopleâ€™s origins as a hip-hop group, cameos from Illa J and Slum Villageâ€™s T3 on the summertime teaser â€œWhat It Feels Likeâ€ and Vancouver veteran Moka Only (the sassy, vanity take-down â€œUngodlyâ€) add to the unimpeachable rap bonafides.
The hometown connections continue with Lotusland local Kapok slinging verses on a couple tracks and rising stars Kendra Dias and Clear Mortifee, who stake serious claims as names to watch with standout vocal turns on the low-slung neo-soul â€œBreak Evenâ€ and the upcoming second single â€œHidden Levels,â€ a high-flying house/future boogie hybrid. Following up their successful 2019 collabo â€œSingle Life,â€ Bunnie makes her return to action with the group on â€œKettle Boiling.â€ Ranging further, Reggie B, who broke on the scene with his lead on Onraâ€™s â€œHigh Hopes,â€ shines on the optimistic bounce of â€œBring The World A Little Closer.â€
Threaded throughout are interlude instrumentals that comfortably manage the neat trick of being musically intriguing while retaining an accessible, gut-level thump. Look no further than the statement-making, Yussef Kamaal-like funk fusion album opener â€œ1st Lightâ€ and their nod to overlooked Vancity synth pioneer Dale Jacobs (â€œOde To Mr. Jacobsâ€) for clues to where Nick and Astroâ€™s hearts are at.
Mellow Fantasy, released 10/30/20 on Bastard Jazz and available on vinyl and all digital platforms, is Potatohead Peopleâ€™s most evolved collection yet, rooted in earthy low end but elevated, expansive and reaching new musical heights.