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Posted on August 1st, 2012 (1:13 pm) by Steve Hanson

Any genre of music can often forge a better path forward by applying lessons from the past. In the case of hip-hop, the relevant past is probably more varied and fertile than with other music. This realization is the strongpoint of Cookies & Cream 2, the latest album from German instrumental hip-hop/neo-soul duo Shuko & F. of Audiotreats (released through Jakarta Records). The duo is clearly committed to bridging the gap between their musical past and their musical future—in this case, they infuse a very rich and colorful soul/R&B sound into their more modern beats. Unfortunately, the realization remains limited in the final execution, and the album ends up tantalizing the listener with promises unfulfilled as much as it offers an antipodal spectrum of past, present and future.

Being unfamiliar with this duo’s previous musical output (though I have to assume it contains a Cookies & Cream 1) I cannot comment on whether their unique fusion of soul music into contemporary hip-hop is a long-term commitment or a new twist on their past sound. However, the album’s own merits can still lend themselves to comment, and the result is certainly interesting, but ends up somewhat mixed. The obvious problem on paper that this is an instrumental hip-hop album, meaning there are no lyrics. This would be problematic since in hip-hop, more so than in other genres of music, the voice is an instrument in and of itself, serving as an essential foundation to the overall sound. However, here this problem is not particularly significant, mainly because the afore-mentioned addition of soulful vocals (even though, in most cases, the voices don’t actually say anything coherent) takes the place of the quick-paced flow of the standard MC. The main problem is that Shuko & F. don’t maintain the soul element throughout the entire album, and thus portions of the album comes across as more bland and less inspired in context of the more quality tracks.

There are precisely three main songs that fulfill the band’s promise and offer a sound that is above and beyond what one would expect from an average rap album—“Intro” (appropriately the first track), “Let Me Be,” and “L.A. My Love.” Each of these samples classic soul vocals and transitions them skillfully into effective rhythmic structures. The remaining tracks are not bad per se, but they aren’t particular great either—the without any kind of twist the beats sometimes grow repetitive. Rhythmic repetitiveness can also be effective, but here that happens less often than not. After “L.A. My Love,” the last three tracks seem to abandon the neo-soul angle altogether. The concluding number, “Future Love,” is much more electronic than any other track. This may be a statement demonstrating a musical transience from past to future, but this focus does not come across as clearly as the duo may have wanted, and the track simply sounds like it’s out of place.

Shuko & F. definitely have a musical vision, as well as the means to bring it about. The key difficulty they now face is balancing such a vision against a more assembly-line production of beat-structures and albums overall. It’s easy enough to sample an old R&B recording and plaster it over some passable hip-hop. Shuko & F. do have the talent to do much more than this, and create sounds both enlightening and memorable. Cookies and Cream 2, for its merits, also demonstrates that the duo is not quite there in regard to what they seek to do. At the end of the day, the album is ultimately a few strong tracks suspended around competent but forgettable music. Future albums may be more mature in this aspect, so this is not a group you necessarily want to forget about. But this album is unlikely to prove their masterpiece, and it waits to be seen whether or not they’ve evolved hip-hop into something new and bold, or merely thrown a few tricks around something much less exciting.

Track List:
1. Intro
2. DC
3. Something Like This
4. Inside
5. Best Friends
6. Are
7. Let Me Be
8. One Two Three And
9. Bam Bam
10. Heaven Knows
11. Uptown
12. L.A. My Love
13. Downtown
14. Beautiful
15. Future Love

Shuko & F. of Audiotreats
Purchase at: Amazon | eMusic

Our Rating

64 / 100
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