In the ‘60s and ‘70s, Jimi Hendrix and Carlos Santana reinvented the studio and live presence of the electric guitar, both intensely virtuosic talents that pulled from their respective cultures’ rich musical history into a vibrant, modern genre, changing the game. That last sentence may one day describe The Diplomats’ in-house producer Abraham Orellana, better known as AraabMuzik. Orellana’s 2011 debut, Electronic Dream, bridged gaps among various strains of rap and EDM plus the outskirts of indie-ville. It was an opening salvo from a producer with Hendrix or Santana-like promise, both as producer and artist.
If mashing buttons is the new shredding strings and Orellana is blasting off to the top of the rap game, think of Instrumental University as a momentary look back before lift off. It collects Araab’s past mixtape and album beats. It’s for completists, mostly, who want all these tracks in one place that isn’t YouTube. The lead-off on Instrumental is also a frequent kick-off to Araab’s live sets: his beat for “1,2,3 Grind” (from Lloyd Banks’ The Cold Corner 2). The track’s Halloween-derived string pizzicato and echoing piano evoke the spooky spectre of Michael Myers. “Okay Y’all” is a highlight of Instrumental, amping the record up with sweet, clicky crunk.
What’s most impressive about Araab is that some of these beats outdistance the respective MCs that tried to ride them. It’s a rare feat but one that Araab seems to pull off consistently. “Rubber Band Stacks”, Araab’s take on Bangladesh’s “A Milli” beat, brings that foot race to a photo finish, though, and that tension is present even without Busta Rhymes’ equally fast chatter or Araab’s fellow Diplomats Cam’Ron and Vado’s laconic flow.
Yet unless you’re a straight fiend for Araab’s sound, the almost ballad-like instrumental of “Ryde on da Regular” might bore you. The piano-driven beat works better ridden by a capable MC like Styles P off his latest, 2011’s Master of Ceremonies. But Araab ends strong with “Salute”, the beat that put his name on many a hip-hop head’s blog. It’s a clanging banger with garbled sirens, as if warning the rap game of his coming, or perhaps the final T-minus before lift off. Between this and his forthcoming Electronic Reality, Araab’s repping hard for Cam, Vado, and The Diplomats crew. Salute!
Essential Tracks: “Salute”, “Rubber Band Stacks”, and “Okay Y’all”