Though Hip Hop’s house band The Roots helped usher in the trend of live instrumentation in mainstream Rap music, that trend largely seemed limited to high-profile stars who used live bands to beef up their stage presence during arena shows. But dig into the Hip Hop underground and you’ll find a lot more artists taking chances and using more than just two turntables and a microphone.
One of the best of the current crop is The B.E.A.T., a trio based in South Bend, Ind., that features guitarist/keyboardist Eli Kahn (aka Elroy), drummer Arthur Schroeder (Art-amiss) and creative MC Billy Easton (B.East). The group takes a progressive approach, not limiting themselves to any genre expectations, and the results — heard on the 2011 release Drops (available as a free download at thebeat.bandcamp.com) — are glorious.
Schroeder plays with the intuition of a Jazz drummer, while Kahn concocts an engaging tapestry of live loops, keys/synth coloring and adventurous guitar work, which emanates from a hybrid guitar/bass guitar instrument and an array of effects.
The sounds fluctuate between experimental guitar Rock to glitchy, noisy atmospherics to a groovy Soul/Jazz/Funk vibe reminiscent of the live-band work on Beastie Boys' albums Check Your Head and Ill Communication.
The B.E.A.T. cites musical influences like Indie Rock bands Minus the Bear and Battles (not your average Hip Hop touchstones, to say the least), while the smart, imaginative lyrics and flow of Easton were inspired by above-the-fray MCs like Nas, Lupe Fiasco and MF Doom. Together, the sound of The B.E.A.T. is like no other in Hip Hop.
The B.E.A.T.’s Northside Tavern show is a release celebration for the trio’s new EP, Undercover, which is described as a collection of covers and live mash-ups, featuring the group’s rewiring of songs by artists like Radiohead, Kendrick Lamar, Portishead, Gucci Mane and Depeche Mode. Undercover was recorded at Cincinnati’s Soap Floats studio and is being released on the local Grasshopper Juice label. Later this year, the all-original companion EP Overhead will be released.The B.E.A.T. will also make a special in-store appearance on Friday at Northside record store Shake It at 6 p.m.
THE B.E.A.T. performs Friday, Jan. 24, at Northside Tavern. Find more info here.