Release Date: Jun 3, 2014
Record label: Brainfeeder
Genre(s): Electronic, Experimental Electronic, Left-Field Hip-Hop, Alternative R&B
Head here to submit your own review of this album. If the first thing I knew about Taylor McFerrin was the quote from his press release, I'd probably never have listened to his album in the first place, I never was much of a fan of the "Resolute prog-soul futurist" movement (by the way I'm fully aware this is a dickhead way to open a review). What I'm trying to say is this, ignore my words, ignore all words about Early Riser and just listen to the thing for yourself.
Taylor McFerrin is many things. Multi-instrumentalist, composer and son of Bobby (“Don’t Worry Be Happy”) McFerrin, he’s a musician whose influences range from Stevie Wonder to Herbie Hancock to J Dilla. It’s unsurprising then that he fits snugly into the world of experimental label Brainfeeder, possessing the same restlessness for genre boundaries as label mates Flying Lotus, Lapalux and Thundercat.
Taylor McFerrin's music career dates back to 1982, when the then youngster appeared in the background of "Jubilee," a highlight on his father Bobby's debut album. During the early 2000s, it resumed in earnest. He occasionally displayed his beatboxing and remixing talents in supporting roles for the likes of Amp Fiddler, Ty, José James, and Dego. Intermittently, as a multi-instrumentalist, singer, songwriter, and producer, he also recorded on his own.
Taylor McFerrin's debut album has been in the works since his Broken Vibes EP first surfaced back in 2006. Since then, McFerrin has honed his skills remixing and producing for others, eventually releasing another EP in 2011 (also titled Early Riser) after connecting with Flying Lotus' Brainfeeder label. Judging from the results on his debut full-length, it was well worth the wait.The time it has taken McFerrin to put together this album would indicate he possesses meticulous attention to detail, and the work of the producer/beatboxer and multi-instrumentalist on this album bears this out.
Prior to the stagnation brought on by the last thirty years or so, the result of clashing theories on how the music should be treated, jazz was a vital art form that changed with the times, going so far as to be labeled as popular music for a time before becoming the museum piece it has gradually settled into (at least within the broader popular conscience). Rather than pushing boundaries, jazz musicians became content exploring already-charted territory, honing their skills on existing sounds and styles rather than looking to create their own. While the previous generation of black musicians largely found their voice in rap and hip hop, putting their own voice and artistic stamp overtop samples of the previous generation’s musical statements, today’s artists seem to seek a more holistic approach by incorporating some sixty plus years of musical traditions into a fresh amalgamation that could potentially serve as a cultural re-entry point into genres long since relegated to the halls of academia.
Bobby McFerrin's 1988 pop hit "Don't Worry, Be Happy" is guaranteed to bring back memories for listeners of a certain age. His son Taylor's debut album for Brainfeeder is unlikely to have the same effect, but it is, in its own oblique way, a curiously nostalgic record. Early Riser recalls '70s LPs by the likes of Herbie Hancock—with whom McFerrin Sr.
Taylor McFerrin's debut Early Riser has been in the oven for a while. In the fall of 2010, a three-track sampler briefly made the rounds, and then not much else was heard in the intervening years from the composer/multi-instrumentalist and son of improv legend Bobby McFerrin. Now the album's arrived on Brainfeeder—Flying Lotus' ever-expanding imprint that has become a haven for artists who consider themselves neither round nor square pegs—there are traces of that original sampler that remain.
The first I heard from Taylor McFerrin, son of jazz great Bobby, was his collaboration with vocalist Nai Palm, the Antidote. It was low-slung and somewhere between hip-hop, soul and freeform jazz. His debut album Early Riser was equally eclectic and followed up on his work with Grammy nominees Hiatus Kaiyote. That group came from a similar place to groups such as Bugz in the Attic or labels like Tru Thought or Sonar Kollektiv, Early Riser, on the other hand, sounded less like contemporary neo-soul and more like an experimental take on where it could go next.
In the past, the country superstar Miranda Lambert has been ferocious but not light, a renegade but not urbane. She took the genre by force and by fire, not quite knowing how to massage it to her ends. On “Platinum,” her vivacious, clever and slickly rowdy new album, though, Ms. Lambert is finally becoming a sophisticated radical, a wry country feminist and an artist learning to experiment widely but also with less abrasion.