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-levelJudgment 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?
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.
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 aDrunken 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.
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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?