Like the more party-oriented Snowgoons, Spectacular Diagnostics are a production team out of Germany which puts together boom-bap LP’s employing mostly black American rappers to wreck shop on the tracks. Raw Studies, to its credit, feels just that — nothing is overproduced, rather favoring eerie, tense and jazzy MF Doom-like beats (these rappers in their best moments emulating the masked one as well), borrowing mid-song transition techniques from that and kung-fu samples from Wu-Tang, but not doing either one to where it will really pi** you off that much.
I first heard of Raw Studies off of Al.Divino’s Facebook promo, who is the first rapper to appear on the album. He’s got what I’d describe as a SHOWY delivery — in general it’s not bad, but lots of times I have no idea what he’s saying. Humorously, at one point one of his lines is “Tryin’ to rhyme like this might leave your mind strained”, and your first inclination of what to say is, yeah, it’s sounding like it’s leaving YOU little bit strained too, to say the least, as you come across his out-of-breath gasping every four bars. Still, he’ll at least keep your attention and give way concordantly to Estee Nack, who to my shock wasn’t one of the seven members of Killarmy. He bears more than a slight resemblance to that Wu-Tang label crew with his haughty delivery indiscreet way of describing violence with big words. I also got a pretty good sense of The Roots’ Malik B. from his rhyming, a sort of over-serious craft of rhyme compilation, rather than just telling a story, but still, the skill is there on a holistic level.
In case you hadn’t guessed yet, it’s pretty much the beats that sew this puppy together all over these cuts — “Palace” comes in utterly beautiful, composed of celestial, jazzy piano and light guitar all over a stark but booming kick drum. Grandmilly drapes himself vocally on the mix with some light scat and jabber just to sort of ground the music in American hip-hop, even though, again, the production team is of German origin here. So in other words, it’s a commendable exercise in diplomacy, which is certainly encouraging these days. “Iknowuknow” lunges in with impossibly grimy swagger and with this sweet sort of Dr. Dre “Purple Pills”-sounding bass that will cut through the proceedings like a dagger. But as with everything, there’s a balance, and up at the treble register is this sound which I think is an electric guitar spliced and looped into conversational melody which nicely straddles major and minor to give the song a gospel-y, Kanye type of feel. Sure, this Chris Crack is a no-good, declaring things like “I’m a pimp though”, but sh**, after all of this overly erudite nerd-rap we get all over this LP, it’s almost refreshing to hear some brat just spit some straight sh** that you can understand, even if he’s not your friend at the end of the day. My favorite rapper here is probably Cousin Feo, whose energetic delivery and street diction takes me back to the glory days of Wu-Tang big time.
Then getting to the beat for “Far from Holy,” you get this really juicy and organic-sounding snare, which I think is probably just done by the analog recording of a live drum kit. The effect is one of seasoned variety for this LP and definitely the mark of professionals in putting albums together, which is certainly in order considering this rapper named Ice Lord is saying things like “I’m the best / Only God comes the closest” and “Y’all ni**az bogus”.