The Distillery: N.A.S.A.'s The Spirit of Apollo
Truth be told, we envy N.A.S.A.'s bumptuous production acumen almost as much as we envy principal astronauts Squeak E. Clean and DJ Zegon the depths of their Rolodexes - even if, somehow, they couldn't rope Lil Wayne into their genre-mashup free-for-all. Seriously - as you'll see below - N.A.S.A.'s debut, The Spirit of Apollo, is on some profoundly next-level Judgment Night-soundtrack shit. It's not all amazing, of course, which is why it's the subject of Rocks Off's inaugural "The Distillery" entry, in which we cherry-pick the choicest cuts to create the album N.A.S.A. should have made all along. 3. "Money," feat. David Byrne, Chuck D, Ras Congo, Seu Jorge, & Z-Trip: N.A.S.A. hop on the rap-as-world-music bandwagon, with United Colors of Benetton results; call it a UN monetary conference of musos. Hey, they could've just covered Pink Floyd's "Money," right?
4. "N.A.S.A Music," feat. Method Man, E-40 & DJ Swamp: One aspect of the Beastie Boys aesthetic that hasn't rubbed off enough on contemporary rappers - the tradition of passing the microphone back and forth. "Music," with its rubbery old-school favor, suggests it may be coming back. 5. "Way Down" feat. RZA, Barbie Hatch & John Frusciante: Quentin Tarantino should cobble together another blaxploitation homage - not because the world really needs one, but because the chance exists that the principals and performers behind this song might cook up a similarly sinuous album-length soundtrack. 6. "Hip Hop" feat. KRS-One, Fatlip, & Slim Kid Tre: More old-school bounce and good-natured celebration from a long-in-the-tooth rap lifer and a pair of nobodies (if not for long). 7. "Four Rooms, Earth View": A lounge-y interlude that's just concise and Jetsons enough to be cute. Alas, no Tim Roth cameo.
8. "Strange Enough" feat. Karen O, Ol' Dirty Bastard & Fatlip: From beyond the grave, ladies and gentlemen: Dirt Dog! Had ODB lived past 2005, this pensive, crushing beat might've been helpful in helping the troubled MC re-attain his top-dog status. In a perverse move, N.A.S.A. import verses from his post-incarceration single "Pop Shots" and draft Yeah Yeah Yeahs frontwoman Karen O for a Drunken Master chorus ad-lib that serves to underline the sheer unlikeliness of this "collaboration." Fatlip - who's amped beyond belief to get on a track with Dirt McGirt - is the sole weak link, playing workmanlike clean-up batter. 10. "Gifted" feat. Kanye West, Santogold & Lykke Li: You've gotta feel for Santogold, who's stuck with the thankless role of playing second fiddle to 'Ye's scene-stealing burst of braggadio and Li's neon-staircase arpeggio strut on the choruses. Still, there are worse places to be a living, breathing nonsequitur than in the Milky Way/Lazer Tag whirl of this N.A.S.A. production. 13. "Whachadoin?" feat. Spank Rock, M.I.A., Santogold & Nick Zinner: Baltimore's Spank Rock - not half the MC provocatuer he'd like to think he is - comes off as the nebulous element this time; I'll pledge my allegiance to the first person to remix this into a 20-minute jam sans Spanky, because Zinner's pureed guitars and the catty, nagging M.I.A./Santogold tag-team make for an irresistable combo. 14. "O Patio" feat. Kool Kojak & DJ Babao: DJ scratches spar with splintered samples, bongo pum-pum-pum, and wonky electronic effects to suggest in-his-prime Miles Davis jamming out with in-his-prime James Brown. Also: Kool Kojak is a kick-ass name. 16. "The Mayor" feat. The Cool Kids, Ghostface Killah, Scarface & DJ AM: How can all of them be the mayor, at once? Or is there a power-sharing arrangement we aren't privy to?
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