Maxilla Blue
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Maxilla Blue

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If someone told you one of the illest rap crews you need to pay attention to this year resides in the unlikely location of Des Moines, Iowa, how would you react? Meet Maxilla Blue: a three-man group consisting of Asphate Woodhavet (the MC), Aeon Grey (the producer) and DJ TouchNice (the DJ, obviously) whose spooky yet infectiously funky debut, The Beat-n-Path Vol. 1, embodies nothing even remotely reminiscent of the farmhouse sheds that may be ignorantly associated with their home state but instead sounds as if it was recorded in the vinyl labyrinth of a dusty New York City basement.

The rhyme schemes of Asphate Woodhavet are at the same time organically sporadic and camouflaged in instantaneous wit as evident even in his choice of a rap alias ("as fate would have it", get it?). "EasyFlowGoodFlowBadFlowInTheWater" is the perfect exhibition of Asphate's infusion of chain link, Black Thought-ish fluidity and the dense narratives you'd hear from someone like MF DOOM. On "M.A.S.H." and "Subluxation", listeners will assume there's at least three MCs dropping lines instead of just one which solidifies Asphate's originality and indefinable style.

Although Asphate Woodhavet is the sole voice you hear on The Beat-n-Path Vol. 1, don't be mistaken...he's no frontman. Aeon Grey's talents behind the boards are equally imperative and is the primary catalyst igniting Asphate's hypnotic mic ramblings. "Hope's Potency", "Slow Footwork", "Strain Game" and "WhoCuz" are Aeon's instrumental moments in the sun showcasing his intravenous connection to vinyl, breakbeats and early '90s Wu-era Hip-Hop. Since 2008 is only more than halfway through, saying The Beat-n-Path Vol. 1 is the best rap album of the year is a bit premature and still remains to be seen. However, due to the consistent and undauntedly profound wordplay of Asphate Woodhavet and the delightful aurality of Aeon's "instrumentaludes", in lieu of the redundant implementation of inept skits, this is undoubtedly the easiest listening LP that has been churned out so far.

4 out of 5

KendredSpirit - ArtofRhyme.com


A lot was said in Friday’s Records at Random post dedicated to the 13th (despite its rep thirteen is one of my lucky numbers) anniversary of Raekwon’s Only Built 4 Cuban Linx about the qualities I admire a Hip-Hop album. Dirty sample-based beats imbued with the crackle-and-pop of vinyl, emcees who are creative, intelligent, raw and more than a little left-of-center, and a diversity in vocabulary and subject-matter were some of the features I mentioned. And since I’m not one to front like Hip-Hop artists are incapable of mastering those traits now-a-days I’m gonna shine some light on an album I recently discovered that possesses them all.

Maxilla Blue ‘The Beat-n-Path Vol. 1′It’s the debut long-player, titled The Beat-n-Path Vol. 1, by Maxilla Blue, a three-man group comprised of emcee Asphate Woodhavet (a.k.a. Skatterbrayne), producer Aeon Grey and DJ TouchNice, from the unlikely locale of Des Moines, Iowa. I wouldn’t normally peg Iowa as a hotbed of Hip-Hop talent or fandom for that mAtter. Nor does it strike me as the sort of place that would have a vibrant arts scene teeming with urban renaissance men, ghetto bohemians and the like. But what do I know from Iowa, right? Apparently they have their act together enough to produce a group of dudes capable of producing music that not only made me take notice, but has me ready to label it one of the best Hip-Hop releases of the year!

Yeah, The Beat-n-Path Vol. 1 is that good. Aeon Grey’s beats (which heavily favor eerie guitar, woodwind and string loops) channel late-’90s Wu-Elements and the producers responsible for the nervously cinematic, regretfully melancholy sound of the formative Hustler/Mafioso Rap records like Reasonable Doubt and Doe or Die. But through some form of beatmaking black-magic he breathes those spirits into the terrestrial shells of indieground staples like Blockhead, Joe Beats and RJD2. And Asphate Woodhavet’s authoritative rasp and breathlessly syllabic flow makes me think him a student of The Roots‘ own Black Thought and former Artifacts member Tame One among others. While his ruggedly intellectual lyricism and esoteric imagery betrays him as a graduate of the post-Rawkus school of Indie/Backpack Rap.

As a whole the album is something of a flashback to the underground Hip-Hop scene in the years between independent heroes The Wu-Tang Clan’s (remember, their first 12� was self-released) triumphant release of OB4CL and Liquid Swords in 1995 and the culmination of the “internet era� around the turn of the century. In that respect it may put listeners who remember that epoch in mind of the likes of Mannish, The Last Emperor, Mood and the Fondle ‘Em Records movement. But track-to-track Maxilla Blue exhibit appreciation for a diverse cross-section of Hip-Hop styles, from that of legendary pioneers to under-appreciated underground underdogs.

Reflection Eternal “Fortified Live� feat. Mos Def and Mr. ManThe choppy drum programming on the intro to “Bamboo� immediately had me thinking of Boogie Down Productions, but the Far Eastern flute & string loop and plunking guitar samples underlying Asphate’s “super-scientifical� rhyme schemes made it feel more like late-’90s backpack joints “Fortified Live,� “Universal Magnetic� and “Definition� that payed homage to the same style. “EasyFlowGoodFlowBadFlowIntheWater� boasts a standout performance from Asphate who furiously spits sociopolitical observations and non sequiturs like the aforementioned Riq Geez and the Knotty Headed Terror doing an Ultramagnetic M.C.’s tribute over a filthy boom-bap beat, ominous piano and a ghostly wailing that sounds like an early Sunz of Man b-side sped up significantly. And the bubbly organ figure and murky, repetitive bass loop on “The Art of Selection� make it sound like Daily Operation-era DJ Premier producing Business as Usual-era EPMD, while Asphate puts in some gruff-voiced Heltah Skeltah-meets-Artifacts-esque mic-ripping.

All of which makes for a surprisingly well-rounded, well-informed, well-intentioned and, most important of all, well-crafted album which fuses hyperbolous braggadocio, surreal jargon, guerrilla sociology, street corner journalism, media-overloaded references and an authentically crate-dug production aesthetic like only the best type of Hip-Hop albums can.

This entry was written by El Keter - Blogarhythms @ Okayplayer.com


Over the past few years, Midwestern hip hop has been making a mark on the mainstream with groups and artists like Common, Kanye West, and Atmosphere. Des Moines based Maxilla Blue, a collaboration between rapper Asphate Woodhavet, producer Aeon Grey, and DJ TouchNice have eagerly grabbed the baton to represent the Midwest.

Maxilla’s foundation is based on soulful and organic arrangements by Aeon Grey. The soul and funk influences are heard immediately, with the opening two tracks “The Unbelievable Grams of Pure�, and “EasyFlowGoodFlowBadFlowInTheWater.� The group focuses heavily on the groove of the track rather than overdone lyrical acrobatics. Aeon Grey conjures the Wu Tang Clan’s mastery of atmospheric and uneasy melodies, while Asphate’s tackles political issues in his own abstract way on “M.A.S.H.�

Aeon also integrates instrumental interludes like the funky breaks of “Slow Footwork.� Maxilla makes it clear throughout the album that no one takes center stage, as Aeon and Asphate create a balanced attack with TouchNice providing some choice cuts and scratches along the way.

You may not hear Maxilla Blue on Top 40 radio anytime soon, but they’ve created something that stays true to the Midwestern ethos, while acknowledging classic funk and soul music from decades ago. Give some props to a local group that’s working hard to put Des Moines on the map. While many may not think of Des Moines as a hip hop epicenter, do yourself a favor and let Maxilla Blue surprise you.

- Corey Gella - DesMoinesMC.com


Discography

Maxilla Blue LP- March 2008

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Bio

Hailing from a land full of rocks, pebbles, and dirt, Maxilla Blue has been left to their own interpretation of music and what it should be, and invites all listeners to do the same. After years of working independently of each other, building within their hometown of Des Moines, IA the members have come together to continue the invisible struggle/ Consisting of the Mic Control of Asphate Woodhavet, Aeon Grey's production and the vinyl finesse of DJ TouchNice, the group is known for occasionally employing hypnosis on audiences, through means of melodic, vertebrae-damaging instrumentals as well as intense vocal illustration of both the world we live in, and that which is hidden to the unseeing eye.

Provoke thought. Create. Express.

Rocks... Pebbles... And Dirt...

That is the balance created by what is Maxilla Blue