King Britt – “Adventures In Lo-Fi” (2002)

Philadelphia DJ and producer King Britt (yes, that’s his actual birth name!) is well known in some circles for his brand of electronic jazz/soul and his wide-ranging collaborations with other artists.  In 2003’s Adventures In Lo-Fi he presents an all-collaboration double album – 22 tracks featuring 17 different singers and MCs laying vocals over his jazzy hip hop musical creations and beats, with enough variation to keep it interesting throughout its more than hour and ten minute duration.

I’ve been listening to a bit of acid jazz and funk lately, things like Brooklyn Funk Essentials and James Brown, plus some different hip hop stuff that I found on the Eleven Phases compilation, and King Britt promised to be a blend of all that and more.  What I got was a great mix of funky, jazzy, slow to mid tempo electronic and beats, with some fantastic vocals.  Side A sets the tone after its brief instrumental introduction, with Rich Medina’s very Barry White-esque spoken word delivery on “Planetary Analysis” followed immediately by female rapper Bahamadia on “Transcend”.  Britt adeptly uses both male and female voices to give the album a unique flow, preventing it from falling into a rut and becoming little more than background noise.  It stays fresh the whole way through.

Normally I’m not a fan of female rappers (something that probably says more about me than it does about the skills the ladies obviously possess), but I have to say that the tracks on Adventures In Lo-Fi that feature women, whether singing or rapping, are probably my favorites.  If I were hating on this album I’d label it something like “adult contemporary hip hop,” and maybe it sorta is.  But the music has a lot of sensuality to it, and I think that’s why I prefer the female vocals since, after all, I’m a dude.

To me Adventures in Lo-Fi is the best of both worlds.  The tempo is up beat enough that it can get you moving, but slow enough that you can just as easily sit on the couch and chill with a cocktail.  To some people that might be a criticism, a description of an album that doesn’t know what it’s trying to be.  But personally I think Britt knew what he was doing and got exactly what he wanted, and I for one am glad he did.