Echoes of P-Funk, Sly Stone and Shuggie Otis resonate through Joseph "Amp" Fiddler's music, yet the Detroit-based artist's debut album, Waltz of a Ghetto Fly, is no mere retro-funk remembrance. True, George Clinton makes a guest appearance on the title track (rapping about a pimp who swore he'd never die), and "If You Can't Get Me Off Your Mind" is exactly what Sly would sound like in 2004 were he still actively recording. But though Fiddler wears his funky influences on his sleeve, he's unmistakably contemporary -- his music compares just as favorably with neo-soul and electronic music but belongs to neither genre exclusively, nor does his music have much in common with current R&B. While Ghetto Fly is accessible enough to please devotees of a variety of different musical styles, it's deep enough to thrill jaded underground aficionados.
For instance, the thumping 4/4 beat of "Superficial" recalls both classic '70s disco and current house music, and is much more intellectually minded than most so-called IDM these days. Its chorus -- "You're so superficial / Baby, you got issues" -- could easily be applied to candy-coated R&B acts, to the shallowness of clubby electronica or to the lack of substance in mainstream rap. Or maybe Fiddler is just talking about his last relationship.
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The production, by Fiddler and J. Dilla, is crisp and tight, with plenty of sub-bass wrapped around MPC drums and electro keyboards. If there's a fault to this Waltz, it's in the mostly midtempo arrangements, seemingly all cut from the same swath of musical fabric. But that's a minor conceit; with every listen, subtle sonic nuances become apparent, resulting in revelations in the living room that might go unnoticed on the dance floor.