It's not often we feature a whole album, normally choosing to focus on one track and talk about that whilst skirting around the fact there is an album behind it. But it's so difficult to separate out anything from today's choice of the Gift Vol 8 by Raj Mahal as it's effectively a beat tape – meaning tracks are short sharp and to the point, showcasing the producers knack for stunning off kilter instrumental tracks, but more importantly there is a genuine progression from point A to point B within the music, so here we are.
The LP is curated by DJ House Shoes, who if you don't know is a hugely prominent name in the alternative Hip Hop scene of Detroit. As a DJ he's toured the world playing with pretty much everyone who matters on the independent hip hop scene (I hate that term), and as a producer he's worked with pretty much everyone who matters within the beat scene – Dilla, Oh No, Mayor Hawthorne, the list is huge.
Back to the LP though, Raj Mahal is a longtime acquaintance of House Shoes from his time DJ'ing at the Legendary St Andrews Hall and House Shoes pulled him into deliver the 8th LP in the gift series. Music articles are full of comparisons, and as useful as they are for the listener they can be a bit misleading, i could compare Raj's material to Dilla, or Madlib, Black Milk or Flying Lotus if i wanted to and yeah, there are certainly some familiar approaches to beat making; snappy drums, an off swing snare/snap/clap but what i find about the Gift Vol 8 is that it's more about melody. In fact to make a comparison it reminded me a lot of Onra (the French beat producer).
I'm not going to lie, it's not the easiest of albums to just pick up and listen to straight away, it takes a little work. There are jump in tracks for certain, Willful the piano lead opener to the LP springs to mind. But throughout the LP, tracks like BoogieDownDet and Black Money showcase there is a real versatility in Raj Mahal's approach to production, especially in his ability to sit soulful jazz flecked samples alongside 80's fused ballads.
Ultimately the album comes across quite emotive, understandably so when you read House Shoes liner notes on Soundcloud. It came out earlier this year on a Vinyl release on House Shoes Street Corner Music label. You can pick it up on Vinyl from Bleep etc… but, and i'm not sure if this is right, it's also available for free download on DJ House Shoes Soundcloud page (linked in the player above)