It is a rare occurrence when a hip hop producer transforms over night. It is even rarer when a producer who specializes in the boom bap brand of hip hop escapes their comfort zone. Producers like Statik Selektah, 9th Wonder and The Alchemist have made a living producing for the likes of Styles P, Phonte and Skyzoo. I’m not saying there is anything wrong with this. Each of the aforementioned producers excel at what they do and consistently keep my head nodding. Regardless, it is an exciting time for music as producers like Clams Casino, Keyboard Kid and Ryan Hemsworth push the boundaries of what constitutes a hip hop beat. Before this morning, I would have lumped Lee Bannon in with the former group of producers. A more than adequate beatsmith who has supplied heat for Planet Asia, Strong Arm Steady, The Jacka and more. I thought of him as a sort of West Coast Statik Selektah. Both utilize brass to its fullest extent and are consistent as hell, but they never make my jaw drop.
That was before I listened to his brand new Caligula Theme Music EP. Abandoning the brass element for which he has become revered in certain certains, the Sacramento-based producer instead opts for lush synth pads, abstract vocal samples and rolling percussion. To be honest, it sounds a lot like Clams Casino. Even the photo at the top of this post feels like it’s straight out of the hype machine. You know what though? I don’t really care. Clams doesn’t own this sound (although he has pioneered it) and blurry pictures are mystifyingly striking. These are hip hop beats at their core, but viewed through a thick layer of pond muck and blunt haze. Clammy Clams better watch out. There’s a new kid in town. You can stream and buy the EP below off of Bannon’s Bandcamp (well worth 3.99) and download the title track over at XLR8R.