May 15, 2003

Muggs "Dust"

It's finally starting to happen--hip-hop artists are finally tired of making straight-up rap music, and they've started to get weird. This is a good thing. Look at artists like Cex, Gold Chains and Aesop Rock, or labels like Mush. They've started to take matters into their own hands and are redefining the genre that once was only about hoes, rap and bling-bling. Muggs, who is the musical mastermind for Cypress Hill, has branched out as well, and has produced a dark, brooding soundscape of an album.

Muggs is actually following very closely behind sometimes collaborator and former trip-hop genius Tricky. Thus, Dustdoesn't owe much to the rap world at all, but it owes a great deal of debt to electronica as well. Don't worry, though; Dust is neither hip-hop or trip-hop or anything like that. It's a weird mixture of R&B, electronica, hip-hop and pop, but it never really sits still long enough to be classified. I like that. I like that a lot. Muggs has turned in a record that defies classification, and he does it so effortlessly.

Though he pretty much handles the music by himself, he does have several guest singers, and this gives the album a distinctive sound. He's assisted throughout the album by the lovely vocals of Amy Trujillo, who is Dust's only consistent vocalist. The songs "Rain" and "Faded" are hauntingly sad, quite deep and very pretty--"Rain" even has a children's choir on it--and what makes things surprising is when you learn that the singer, Josh Todd, was the frontman of really the hideously named and boringly bad hair metal band Buckcherry. On here, he's very tender, sweet--and occasionally reminiscent of Noel Gallagher, which is who I thought it was at first. Also appearing on Dust is Everlast, who does the pretty good "Gone for Good." The real winner, though, is Greg Dulli's "Fat City," which is very similar to his Twilight Singers project--heck, it even appears on their new album.

That's not to say that Dust is a perfect record, because it's not. As is quite obvious, he moves around quite a lot, and because he's not sitting still, Dust is occasionally spread too thin. Sometimes there's a monotony in the overall sound of the album, making it a bit tedious in places, leaving you to think that you've just heard the song you're listening to. Still, that's a relatively minor complaint, because Dust is never less than enthralling, and Muggs is an excellent composer. (Then again, all those Cypress Hill records should have told you that!)

Dust is a dark and haunting work, yet it's quite beautiful. It's a surprising record from someone who's well-regarded in the rap world, because it doesn't sound like anything he's done with Cypress Hill or solo. To be honest, the only other record I could think of that compares to what Muggs has created with Dust is This Mortal Coil, and that's saying a lot. An excellent record that will leave you wanting more, Dust is a record which points to a brighter, interesting future for its composer.

--Joseph Kyle

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