With their modern take on psychedelic funk, classic R&B, and roots-based soul, the Stepkids self-titled debut is straight out of left field, even Stones Throw's. But as far out as it is, their genre-fusing style was a likely match for the label, since Peanut Butter Wolf and so many of his hip-hop acts dip from the same pool of influences. The ghosts of Sly and Eric Burdon are heard in the slinky grooves, and Electric Ladyland and Maggot Brain play a part in shaping The Stepkids' stoney decadence.
The Stepkids are a three-piece with an impressive musical résumé-- their members have shared stages and performed in the touring bands of Lauryn Hill, Alicia Keys, and 50 Cent. With the release of their eponymous debut record on Stones Throw, they step into center stage, a place where the glare shines not only on their chops as musicians, but also on their personality as a band and their ability to carry off these impressively formed, iridescent soul songs. There's no doubting the musicianship here-- they effortlessly drift from loving soul homages to delicately experimental psychedelic touches that recall the spaced-out synths of P-funk and, more recently, artists like Thundercat and Janelle Monáe.
The Stepkids takes a roundabout route to making its music sound avant-garde, filtering a retro aesthetic through a film of electricity. White boy classical soul à la the Jay Vons becomes electrified neo-soul of the new millennium when songs like “La La” digress into tinkling chimes, the whirr of something distinctly machine-like and the pulsing hum of a laser gun. The band records on reel-to-reel to maintain a warm vinyl sound and constructs its own light show, which it projects onto the players’ all-white outfits during live performances.