Although AraabMUZIK is reportedly working with EDM heavyweights Skrillex and Diplo for his forthcoming LP, the MPC mastermind’s newest instrumental offering, appropriately dubbed For Professional Use Only, is a 20-track audio portfolio for the broader music industry’s lyricists, rappers, producers, and labelheads. The instrumental mixtape doesn’t share the cohesion of the his highly touted debut full-length Electronic Dream, choosing instead to wander through the aural fields of dance music. The road-tested Araab formula is still in place: punching micro-samples, haunting subterranean synth lines, vocal manipulation, and wall-rattling basslines. But the producer’s ongoing rise now has him primed to tackle aesthetics outside of his prior comfort zones.
Closing out the mixtape, “Words of a Chameleon” epitomizes the producer’s prevailing character. A companion anthem to “The Prince Is Coming”, the purely instrumental tracks are the work of a proud producer, albeit one with an appreciation for the darker side of music — remember this is a producer that was sampling death-metal riffs for the Dipset crew. The tracks lack the prevailing urgency of the typical Araab selection, serving as a sort of intro and exit march for the producer to bookend his live sets. If the dynamic genre shifts throughout the album are any indication, Araab sees himself as a production chameleon, capable of adapting for any environment without distracting from the surrounding natural beauty.
Designating the melodic yet demented “AraabStyles” as a 7 on the AraabMUZIK Litmus Test, “Runaway Bass” and “Beauty” rest on the poles. “Runaway Bass” is the raging track that sits at the peak of an Araab live performance and approaches the intensity of Datsik’s hip-hop efforts. That savageness somehow transforms into a delicate introspection on “Beauty”, complete with female whispers and orchestral chimes that could provoke an Araab-Erykah Badu collab. If it wasn’t for the producer’s incessant urge to include his “You are now listening to AraabMUZIK” tagline it would be near impossible to guess the tracks were produced by the same man.
The majority of the album’s other cuts are focused on attracting emcees within the rap arena. “Getting 2 the Point” draws so heavily on the work of Lex Luger that Waka Flocka Flame probably already has a few verses that could be plugged-in for his next single. Although titled “Get 2 the Point”, the hook’s main concern is “getting to the money”, a revealing statement about the current status of both EDM and rap. Araab shifts his focus toward the melody on “Street Knock”, “So Good”, and “D.R.U.G.S”, expanding on the sound created by J Dilla and seeing an evolutionary resurgence from Pretty Lights Music.
It’s one thing to draw inspiration from a contemporary artist, it’s another to blatantly copy an aesthetic. “SUCCUBI”, which has already received a rework from Azealia Banks, sounds so similar to TNGHT that Araab best send a thank-you note if the track blows up in clubland. The liquid-bass showcased on “Never Have to Worry” may not be directly lifted from Bassnectar’s “Empathy”, but the bottom ends are strikingly similar. These flaws are forgivable, but if Araab was going to borrow so heavily he could have given more effort to make his tracks better than those originals.
The album isn’t totally void of risky experimentation. “I Can Show You” is a jazz-infused thumper that begins with archived found sounds and builds with layers of sample blasts and augmented vocals snippets. The producer even manages to include some chase and synthwave on the front-end of “Astro Dust”, which at 4:37 is roughly 90 seconds longer than most of the release’s tracks. Short compared to most club singles, Araab’s production techniques do not lend themselves to developing complex melodic arrangements or great rhythmic shifts.
The album’s cover may depict Araab destroying a live crowd, but this release is definitely not a congealed arrangement. Some tracks may mix well into one another, most notably the psychedelic “D.R.U.G.S.” into ”World Is Lost”, but most transitions would kill the flow of a packed crowd. The album may have its shortcomings, but in the end it is a solid statement on his appreciation for varying forms of production and his intent to further embed these during his live sets and upcoming studio albums.
Essential Tracks: “I Can Show You”, “Beauty”, and “Astro Dust”