Devin the Dude

Also: Robag Wruhme, Amon Tobin.


To Tha X-treme


The music you'll recognize instantly: G-funk with light Southern touches, a smooth cross between Dr. Dre's The Chronic and OutKast's Aquemini. The voice insinuates itself quickly enough, too, because it sounds fairly generic—which, it turns out, is its secret weapon. Houston's Devin the Dude is hip-hop's paradigmatic everyman, his luck as tough as most of his peers' personae; and because he's not ostentatious, he can make even the fantastical sound like it fits right in. The ethereal "Briarpatch" draws on the deepest Southern mythology—"You can season and cook me/But not the briarpatch," he whispers on the chorus, over a liquid live bass groove and step-rhythm drum program, unofficially in character as Brer Rabbit. "Go Fight Some Other Crime" features the best pulled-over-by-the-cops scenario since Jay-Z's "99 Problems," only instead of comic confrontation this one's marked by its just-folks nonchalance, which makes it even more insidious. "I'm just sippin' coffee," Devin insists, though everywhere else he's more up-front: "Man, I'm so high," he notes in the title cut. "Who am I? Oh yeah, Devin." "Cooter Brown" looks at the down side of getting high: "You're looking at me strange/I've got my weed, I've got my drink and other things/I've been trying to just focus/ I want to quit drinking this shit, but no luck . . . I used to be private/But now I think I'm being spied on." Because Devin is subtle, he's easy to overlook. But I haven't loved a hip-hop record more this year. MICHAELANGELO MATOS


Wuzzlebud "KK"

(Musik Krause/Kompakt)

Wherefore art thou, Robag? On his debut,Robag Wruhme (aka Gabor Schablitzki, one half of up-and-coming remixing team the Wighnomy Brothers) filters the history of mid-'90s dance music through the lens of Cologne's Kompakt label. References abound: "Hugendubel" is a cut-and-paste picture of Aphex Twin and Si Begg rehashing their similarities in Germany's largest bookstore, which lends the song its name. Aphex—or Autechre as his stunt double—floats on the open seas of "Pelagia." This revisionist strategy works superbly on the measured ear-to-ear duel "Mensur" and "Jause" and "Skrubbs," which sound like tributes to the hard techno of DJ Rush; it falters on the generically ambient "Konnek" and the Ninja Tune–ish digression "K.T.B." But other labels and approaches aren't the only things Wruhme nods toward. A spare, deliberate track interlaced with Ophelia's speech upon the death of her father and her rejection by Hamlet, "Wuzzelbud 'KK'" is the album's apex. Sonically haunting, its minimalism evokes the now schaffel-ing ghosts of midperiod Tresor, but its Ophelia is a curiously dispassionate one, her "gone, lady, he is dead and gone" refrain more coolly malevolent than mournful. Is Wuzzelbud "KK" a eulogy of sorts for techno, as dance music's audience drifts away and microhouse threatens to fall into a self-reflexive impasse? Or, with Wruhme a soldier rising through the ranks, is it a call to arms? His Ophelia's "We know what we are but know not what we may be" could be a rallying cry. KRISTAL HAWKINS


Solid Steel Presents Amon Tobin Recorded Live

(Solid Steel/Ninja Tune)

Like its equally polydexterous jazz compatriot, breakbeat fusion is an oppressively busy musical creation, with boisterous programmed rhythms protruding from every imaginable orifice and a sampledelic vocal accompaniment screaming hell-bent-for-leather peer pressures until a heart attack seems like a reasonable escape. Now, imagine this hyperactive style applied to digital technology that magnifies a skilled DJ's live cutting-and-pasting options by, oh, a gazillion. That's exactly what Amon Tobin, dark master of samba-centric drum and bass turned Ninja Tune starlet, drops on this live mix, originally designed for Coldcut's great Solid Steel radio show on the BBC. Created using Final Scratch software, a turntable/laptop interface that allows DJs to manipulate computer files the way they usually manipulate records, Recorded Live is a kitchen-sink big-bam-boom affair, the Godzilla of mix CDs, scary, loud, fun, even, yes, funky, though it's doubtful how the dance moves Tobin seeks to instigate with this musical collage can be anything but slam. Mixing in a dozen of his own records alongside stuff from other fusionista Ninjas—Richard James in evil breakbeat mode as AFX, grime superstar Dizzee Rascal, a sound clash between a vocoderized beat-boxer and Diwali (Cherrystones), and even the Velvet Underground (!)—Tobin only steers the music toward ambient, noirish downbeats to push the whole thing off the cliff again. PIOTR ORLOV

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