ArtOfficial mixes hip-hop, jazz and rap in “The Payback”

By Tim Klepp

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On their second album, “The Payback,” ArtOfficial continues to develop their distinctive sound, producing a marked improvement fron their last release, “The Stranger EP.”  The Miami-based music project is comprised of a traditional jazz quartet lead by Keith Cooper on alto saxophone alongside rap emcees Logics and Newsense.  The up-and-coming group released “The Payback” April 23, now available for a free download on their website.

The six-piece ensemble creates a unique sound, blending Cooper’s bluesy licks behind alternating verses delivered by Logics and Newsense on amazingly spontaneous tracks.  Both emcees have a raw, high-paced flow, introducing an interesting combination of sounds when coupled with jazz undertones.  Think of the Roots’ live instrumental vibe, but with more complexity and a variety of sounds.

These factors make “The Payback” a remarkable album at some times, but somewhat jumbled at others.  Don’t expect a clean-cut blend of hip-hop and jazz.  As it is only the group’s second album, their sound definitely needs time to mature. The backing jazz quartet creates a cluttered sound on some tracks, introducing too many competing sounds over the two emcees’ lyrics.

That being said, what makes this album noteworthy is how ArtOfficial attempts to make sense of an array of styles, genres, and sounds.  I assume they titled the album “The Payback” to pay tribute to artists who influenced them.  Drawing from Led Zeppelin, Radiohead and Jay-Z, ArtOfficial remakes classic instrumentals with their own fresh sound.  The track “Oceanography,” a cover that draws influence from Led Zeppelin’s “Black Dog” and “The Ocean,” provides the best example. Cooper’s sax in synchrony with Sonny East’s guitar on this track sounds simply awesome.

One day ArtOfficial will be huge; however, if you decide to download the album, their tracks won’t be “most played” on your iTunes anytime soon. Overall, I’m impressed by what ArtOfficial creates on “The Payback,” and I’m definitely intrigued by their potential.

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