This review can also be found at The Yorker (whoops, I overlooked mirroring this one…)
It’s been a while since I listened to an album with honestly interesting sampling. One of the things I love about hip-hop (and music inspired by such) is beat-making in original ways. A lot of instrumental hip-hop goes heavy on the piano and brass samples, which are excellent, though not as common as it used to be.
Thankfully, Chiddy Bang’s Breakfast, the duo’s first full album after a mixtape in 2010, has funky and creative beats from the start. The intro is a cute little soundscape with piano backing that reminds me strongly of Nicolay’s work. But that’s contrasted hard with ‘Breakfast’, the punchiest discussion of a mealtime you’ll ever hear with booming 808s and a solid demonstration of Chiddy’s rap skills – clear and rhythmic without resorting to painful half-rhymes or hashtag rapping.
Beat-wise, ‘Handclaps & Guitars’ is what is says on the tin, with this weird Owl City-ish chorus, and ‘Mind Your Manners’ has an odd but catch voice sample from Icona Pop’s ‘Manners’ (which may prove grating for some) and a sweet-as switch in the beat at 1:43.
‘Ray Charles’ was one of the Singles for this album; definitely a solid choice. It might be a bit of an unfortunate choice for Chiddy to compare himself to the famous jazz pianist based around just his shades-wearing habits and weed consumption – but the track as a whole sticks to its amusing and silly theme.
‘Does She Love Me?’ has its groove set firmly in a romantic sentiment from its opening bar, and it’s by far my favourite track on the album. The the quiet synth chords and the ooohing chorus is an aural dream come true, juxtaposed by lyrics about romantic frustrations, just in case you were tempted to think Chiddy Bang has gone soft.
Things slow down a little after this point. The beat to ‘Run it Back’ struggles to compete with ‘Does She Love Me?’, although the chiptune aspects to it interesting (if outclassed by a later track I’ll get to). Out 2 Space doesn’t do it for me, alas. It’s just lacks a catchy element, though the space-y feel is spot on.
There’s a seemingly out-of-place Interlude for track 10, but its melody gels with the following track, ‘Talking to Myself’, which has a solid bassline groove coupled with violin plucks and a light piano, of all things. However, that pales in comparison to the penultimate track, ‘Baby Roulette’.
It competes for the accolade of ‘best track’ with ‘Does She Love Me?’, losing out just slightly. It’s slow, goofy beat is heavily chiptune based, and would find a happy home in an episode of Adventure Time, strangely paired with a rap about avoiding university pregnancy. The chorus cracks me up (“I hope you know that I’m for real / My love is super-sized, ain’t no Happy Meal”), and the whole thing just puts a smile on my face. It’s a shame then, that it’s followed by one of the most boring tracks on the album, ‘4th Quarter’. It’s loud and repetitive, and could have been removed entirely to give Breakfast a way stronger ending.
Chiddy Bang definitely impress with their fun sampling and use of chiptune, and Chiddy’s rapping is well-crafted with a neat habit of staying in theme with the track’s title. The general content doesn’t go much further beyond discussing marijuana and sleeping with pretty ladies; but I can forgive that – not all hip-hop has to be politically inspired, and either way Breakfast is very refreshing. Consume it today.