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EL MICHELS AFFAIR & BLACK THOUGHT

El Michels Affair & Black Thought

Glorious Game

    When Leon Michels and El Michels Affair released their fi­rst record, Sounding Out The City, in 2005, it was hard to guess what was next for Michels and his then-introduced, now-patented “cinematic soul” sound. Now, four EMA studio albums and scores of tribute and remix projects later all while producing for some of the biggest names in the industry Michels has trademarked his sound, with each project taking audiences somewhere new and pushing the boundaries of what he is known for. The man is a river, not a lake and this time he takes his golden touch into the realm of hip-hop laying down a musical bed for one of the greatest to ever rhyme into a microphone: Black Thought of The Roots crew.

    Releasing on Big Crown Records, the LP is called Glorious Game and it is a remarkable debut partnership in more ways than one. Michels provides his bottom-heavy, soul-tinged production for Black Thought who gives us some of the more personal and transparent verses we've ever heard from him. Michels and Black Thought have been in each other's orbit for a while now. The two fi­rst met in the 2000s when Thought was fi­rst getting familiar with the contemporary soul scene. "Out of that whole world, Menahan Street Band was probably my favorite," recalling the funk and soul group Michels was a founding member of back in 2007. Fast forward a few years and musicians from that collective Dave Guy on trumpet and Ian Hendrickson-Smith on sax are now full time players with The Roots. This connection eventually led Leon and Thought to doing a few fundraising events around NYC and Philly together. "Before long, Black Thought was coming around the studio and would jam with us from time to time," Michels explains. "Then, fast forward to 2020 and COVID lockdowns, he just hit me up out of the blue, wanting me to send him stuff to write to. We both were looking to stay busy."

    Being that Black Thought is the co-founder and emcee for, hands down, the best live-band group in hip-hop. Michels took a decidedly different approach to this project and instead of sending recorded tracks of live compositions, he pulled out the sampler and sampled himself and some records from his collection. "I'm a big fan of soul music," as if Michels has to remind us. "And part of hip-hop's appeal to me has always been the sample-based production".

    For Glorious Game, Michels would make wholly composed and recorded soul songs in his studio, sample himself, then chop and/or loop up his sounds and create instrumentals for Black Thought. On some tracks he took a more traditional hip-hop approach, starting from samples of other people’s music but then adding live instrumentation on top. But for the most part, it's him reinterpreting his own compositions into something new.

    The result is an organic feel of loop-based tracks that breathe and fluctuate enough for Black Thought to ‑ex on. "What I write about is determined by the equation of the producer's energy and my energy," Black Thought says. "It's about where we meet." So armed with Michels sampled and re-sampled soul cinematics, Black Thought rhymes through personal memories and distinctive.

    STAFF COMMENTS

    Barry says: With Michels laying down scattered soul-infused hip-hop beats, and the legendary Black Thought on vocal duties, this was always going to be a superb outing, but it's the ease with which these talented producers work together that is really refreshing. Forging an entirely new sound through their respective, distinctive voices, 'Glorous Game' is even more of a triumph than expected. Brilliant.

    TRACK LISTING

    Side A
    1. Grateful
    2. Glorious Game Feat Kirby
    3. I’m Still Somehow
    4. Hollow Way
    5. Protocol (feat. Son Little)
    6. The Weather
    Side B
    7. That Girl
    8. I Would Never
    9. Alone
    10. Miracle
    11. Glorious Game (Reprise)
    12. Alter Ego (feat. Brainstory)

    El Michels Affair & Black Thought

    Glorious Game / Grateful

      El Michels Affair & Black Thought treat us to an unstoppable new 45. Pulling two standout tunes from their forthcoming Glorious Game record. The A side features the album's title track "Glorious Game", a bouncy, in the pocket tune that lands somewhere between G Funk and Outkast's Spottieottiedopealicious. Black Thought raps about trials of fame and respect but also being the best version of oneself while balanced by patience. KIRBY jumps in on the chorus with her distinct voice and luscious melodies putting the song comfortably at home in the speakers of a Cadillac. The B Side "Grateful" is a thick, low-end banger with a haunting flute line, and a sample of Shabba Ranks "Ting-A-Ling" that sends the message that class is in session. Black Thought's verses lay heavy in the way we've come to love: cadences that walk a line between street teacher and poet, explanation and experience. He pays homage to what's come before him and how it's made him with lines like "I guess the moral of the story is, any sip you pour me is, a toast to the warriors who bit the dust before me, kid." Die hard fans may also recognize the instrumental from the late great Virgil Abloh's Louis Vuitton 2022 Fashion Show video.

      STAFF COMMENTS

      Matt says: Off the back the Danger Mouse project (Black Thought's first official collaboration and #2 in our albums of 2022), the Roots rapper must have caught the bug for teamwork, as here he joins with new funk / jazz outfit El Michels Affair for a dynamite hip-hop cut which is joyously the first single off a new album planned by the two acts in question.

      TRACK LISTING

      Glorious Game
      Grateful


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