Kevin’s Music Reviews: DZA – Five Finger Discount

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From the livingroom carpet mixtapes of Samiyam to the smoky jive of Knxwledge, the wonky instrumental hip-hop scene has proven by several artists to be great music to just hang out to. It doesn’t demand your attention the way lyrically-driven raps would, but it’s not a sound prone to dissolve into the background like straight-up ambient music, either. The beats are the heartbeat that keeps the vibe alive, and the soulful, jazzy instrumentals lay you out and spread you smoothly like jelly on toast. Some artists have achieved incredible things in pursuit of this ideology (look no further than Cosmogramma by Flying Lotus), and it’s incredibly fun to watch players on the scene in hopes that they’ll someday accomplish equally impressive things. In particular, I’m looking at you, DZA.
Situated in Moscow, Sasha Dza in a nutshell crafts your garden variety hybrid of wonky electronics and sexy hip-hop beats, ideally music that someone should rap over in the future. Though experts of this sound (like the aforementioned Flying Lotus) have succeeded in making their music interesting and vibrant enough to rarely need to be littered with verbal language, Five Finger Discount still somewhat aches to be rapped over. Not that the music isn’t pretty occupied here; tattered and distorted synths writhe between scratchy beats on “Eskimo”, just before a smoother, warmer piece massages your mind down in the form of “Shifty” only to have “Uproar in Heaven” pick things up with a calming, slightly unnerving oriental beat. The mood is consistently dank and mellow, and each song has a new idea to show off, some of which do so with a subtle elegance (“Softgram”).  In general, not enough of these ideas really come off as super memorable, nor is the album’s flow terribly exciting despite a charming vinyl crackle weaving each song together (and an occasionally annoying ringing noise that sounds like tinnitus). In spite of this, however, I can’t help but see potential in the whirring, effervescent electronics of “Homeparty,” the dramatic Rap Supervillain theatrics of “Out of Time,” or Atari’s night out in Vegas in “Hey Rake!”  Even every now and then I’m reminded of jewels like Los Angeles through some cavorting beats and jovial energy, evident on “Downtown Honeymoon.”
Though Five Finger Discount is four years old, DZA’s Soundcloud is lush with new tracks and remixes that confirm my opinion that he does, in fact, show potential on this LP and he has been realizing this potential rather well. What exactly is he up to? Look no further than the preview for “CATBUG” for evidence that his beats have become classier and his instrumental canals have flooded with more colorful and hectic charisma that caters more to a party atmosphere than ever before. His assorted remixes showcase much improvement in his craft as well, though I personally don’t have much to say on remixes. Give this album a listen on the Error Broadcast bandcamp page and if you’re bored check out other tunes available on the label’s own website.

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