Radio Galaxy add depth and soul to hip hop.Photo by Will Morgan
It's safe to say that Houston's hip hop scene is flush with talent. It's always been that way and it definitely still is. While it would've been cool to see the vanguard acts reach out to the up and comers like what happened in Atlanta, that didn't happen here and that's okay. Instead, without the shout outs and assistance, the up and coming acts have had to prove they're worth engaging with, thus bringing more creativity to the table than we've ever heard before.
The result is a hungry and creatively strong hip hop scene full of acts that are placing their stamp on Houston's hip hop legacy, while showcasing a stronger sound in the process. While the new album from Houston's Radio Galaxy wasn't the first time I'd heard the group, Nobody Digs Your Music But Yourself is the group's most creative and catchy release to date. Full of lush beats, solid rhymes, and even a couple of narratives that set the stage for the most innovative hip hop to come out of Houston since DJ Screw slowed down the tracks. Almost as if Sly & the Family Stone and Stereolab covered A Tribe Called Quest, The Radio Galaxy proves that the best hip hop can come from a new template that breaks the mold of what came before.
It should be noted that Radio Galaxy isn't as much a hip hop group as it is an original entity that happens to include alternative hip hop in the music they collectively create. Hints of soul, jazz, funk, and rock hop in and out of each track with ease, as if the group are ready to re-invent the genre all by themselves. After opening with an intro piece "May I(Intro)," the band glides into the spacey and funky sounds of "Fleece." Mixing notations from acts like Funkadelic with a multiple vocal cluster, there's so much magic happening here that it's hard to find one thing to point out. With a chill hip hop rhyme with multiple group and backing vocals, the song has a flow that's hard not to love alongside a catchy hook.
This catchiness continues into "Space Whips" where the group really gets austere and engaging. The beat alone should draw you in, though it's the bass line and the groove infused sound while the mike gets spit on with a flow that's as smooth as silk. The underlying jazz influence in how the additional vocals hop on and off the track is hard to ignore while the group steers closer to traditional hip hop in pace while adding funk structures. That sound that sticks with you only goes deeper on "Yester Life" where the group adds a mixture of psych and dream pop with hints of indie rock to craft a sound that holds your attention. While you won't find a deep bass drop here, the creativity of the group is hard to match as they bring a whole new element to the common hip hop theme. Again, the group's use of different vocals are what really hold your attention, adding their own stamp and making the music that much more interesting.
The new album from Radio Galaxy redefines what you know about hip hop.
Cover art courtesy of artist
Two tracks later, "Light Hops" keeps the hooks coming where the beat draws you in and again, the group's use of vocals and soul infused instrumentation and soul are what creep into your ears and stay with you. There's a freedom to how Radio Galaxy structures this song, as if they're making all the rules while they perform. There are nods to '70s soul stamped all over the song, giving a depth not seen in modern hip hop today. The group mixes up structure on "Minnetonka," but that doesn't mean it's not immensely catchy. In fact, the backing vocals almost create their own beat here that drive you into the musical notes. The instrumentation is simple, but it works and makes the track a true banger that creeps up on you and makes it one you'll place on repeat.
The group slows things down over the next couple of tracks before closing out with the fetching sounds of "#Selfie," where the beat is immediate and in your head. The vocals are more soul and R&B influenced here, but it's not a sound that deters from the rest of the record. There's a chill jam sound to the track until the song breaks down and this narrative hops on that evokes early Kraftwerk in the synth use while the rhymes that get spit are on a whole other level, reminding you that no matter what sounds get incorporated here, Radio Galaxy is re-inventing what you think of hip hop while utilizing soul, funk, and R&B to get the point across.
There's so much happening with this album, that it's hard to place a finger on any one thing. The band's use of varying vocal mixtures, brash instrumentation that goes against the grain of modern hip hop while nodding at the pasts of soul and funk. It's as if Radio Galaxy is saying, "we're the new sound" on each and every track while giving props to the past at the same time. You can stream Nobody Digs Your Music But Yourself in all of the usual places, or purchase it directly from the band via their Bandcamp page.
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