NASA's The Spirit Of Apollo hit stores today, and after several spins of our promo copy, I'm still listening just out of pure curiosity .
There is certainly plenty to be curious about with this new feature packed debut album from NASA (North America South America). But the question for me is, does the intrigue match the quality of music?
The NASA name has been pulsing through the NYC music/nightlife scene for a few months now, and despite a listening party at Le Poisson Rouge that, well, wasn't what it could have been (martian costumed bad dancers weren't exactly the type of guest appearances we've come to expect from NASA)... the name seems to be holding up to the hype.
Squeak E. Clean & DJ Zegon, the duo behind NASA's beats, have pulled together a VERY impressive list of guest features for their debut album. The songs are enjoyable and fun hip-hop tracks, that for the most part, have beats that stand up to the high caliber guest features. However, it seems the best is already at hand, as it is hard to fathom how their live performance could possibly be as exciting as the albums track list. It's highly unlikely that any of David Byrne, Chali 2na, Gift of Gab, Method Man, Kanye West, RZA, KRS-One, Fatlip, Tom Waits, Kool Keith, SantIgold, Lykke Li, Sizzla, George Clinton, M.I.A., Spank Rock, Del The Funkee Homosapien, The Cool Kids, Ghostface Killah, DJ AM, Chuck D, John Fruciante, Ol Dirty Bastard (RIP), DJ Qbert, DJ Babao, Ras Congo, Seu Jorge, E-40, DJ Swamp, Barbie Hatch, Karen O, Slim Kid Tre, Amanda Blank, Lovefoxx, Nick Zinner, Kool Kojak & Scarface, will will tour for The Spirit of Apollo.
Obviously there are many musical acts who feature special guests on their albums and perform the tracks live without those guest artists. Though, this album is unique because EVERY track except the 25 second "Four Rooms, Earth View" features someone else. And not just someone else, but 2 or 3 major artists. Strip all of those guest appearances away and what's left is a very talented DJ duo playing their own album. A cool concept indeed, but with potentially limited excitement (unless David Byrne walks out in an over sized suit and presses play on his boombox).
More than adhering to the traditional (and ever evolving) concept of an album, The Spirit of Apollo plays more like a necessary mix-tape compilation of hip-hop pioneers merged with important genre leading songwriters, that finally exists. The album result is more conceptually exciting than musically ground breaking, but will certainly put NASA on the map, and keep people listening and eager for more upcoming collaborative tracks.
WAY DOWN - One of my favorites, and a very nice break from the urban funk of the rest of the album. The cool, Madlib-esque beat makes me want more of this kind of feel from the album.
THE PEOPLE TREE - Extremely funky, Chali 2na and Gift of Gab make any track feel like you HAVE to listen to it. A treat to hear David Byrne's voice on the hook.
MONEY - "Chuck D, sorry that drink's not on me" great verse
STRANGE ENOUGH - fun Wu-Tangish synth sounds, great to hear "WU TANG, WU TANG" chant & ODB's voice.