Tha Gatherin: A Critical Review

Posted on Monday, June 6th, 2011 by KingCobWeb
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Tha Gatherin, the debut by Patrick “Tha Innuhvaduh” Chapin and Bill “Spruke” Boulden, is a rap album about Magic: the Gathering that magnificently delivers on all the promises it makes by containing both rap and lyrics pertaining to Magic: the Gathering. The album boldly moves past typical hip hop cliches such as internal rhyme schemes and basslines and onto completely uncharted territory. Any true hip-hop fan will have nothing but praise for the true old-school classics such as Ultramagnetic MCs, and Tha Gatherin deftly pays tribute to such late-80s artists by rapping in a style deeply indebted to theirs and others; shunning the “mainstream” method of supposedly natural-sounding rhymes, Tha Gatherin brilliantly makes use of the classic staccato style. It takes true courage, in this day and age, to proudly display love for the history of the genre and they should be saluted for that. Other subtle references abound: listeners of Mobb Deep’s classic “The Infamous” (they weren’t quite real enough to properly spell the album title, unfortunately) are no doubt familiar with the record’s almost painterly usage of vinyl hiss, cracks, and pops that made the samples sound even rawer than they already were. Tha Gatherin updates the practice by using lower-bitrate sounds in their songs. A truly remarkable innovation that feels fresh and current in the internet age.

In a clever acknowledgement of the ethical dilemmas innate in the genre’s theft of other artists’ material (often called “sampling” by some hip-hop producers), mastermind Spruke doesn’t go the easy route of stealing from James Brown like some others. Instead, he creates something truly unique by programming all drums himself to ensure that no beat that appears on the album has ever been heard by the rap community. It literally moves to the beat of its own drummer! Ha ha, just a little music pun there for you. But don’t worry: even though wordplay is all over the radio thanks to hacks like Lil Wayne, Tha Gatherin is certified to be free of it. That’d right, you can listen to the whole thing and be confident that you won’t feel stupid by missing a reference or needing to back up to hear it again; the lyrics are straightforward and understandable, a breath of fresh air in the world of hip-hop where the jargon can often be difficult to penetrate and the ideas overly complex. Even better, Mr. Chapin has a clear unaccented truly all-American voice, not like the mumbly gravelmouths you’ll hear on other records. Theater teachers the world over will be proud. Even the name of the project serves to explain what the work is about: I’m sure you could ask middle-aged people what they would guess a rap group about Magic: the Gathering would be called, and a large portion would answer “Tha Gatherin.” And they’d be so right!

Mr. Chapin should also be commended for his rapid turnaround from his previous incarceration after a conviction for dealing large quantities of Ecstasy. He is possibly the first rapper to get out of jail on drug charges and not rap about it as soon as he gets the chance; instead, he brings us uplifting stories about how he “invented Jace.” Truly, we all have a lesson to learn from his bravery and humility.

Just as the transcendent genius of Hall & Oates brought an improved version of “soul” music to a whole new demographic, Tha Gatherin updates, innovates and reincorporates hip-hop into something totally fresh that should appeal to all Magic fans that have never been exposed to the genre. It should certainly be a new experience for so many of them! I look forward to the ecstatic reactions from the community as an entire world of music is opened to them through the fantastic work of these two up-and-coming musicians. It’ll definitely be a candidate for my end-of-year lists, as it came out this year.

Buy the album here