Beans latest solo LP, produced by Sasu Ripatti (aka Vladislav Delay), is a nightmare of frenetic beats and hyperkinetic verbiage, in a good way, says Bernie Brooks

Beans, baby, Beans! Back in, oh, I don’t know, 2002 or thereabouts, when CD burners were still novel to me, I loaned this guy Brandon a huge stack of Touch And Go and Dischord releases along with a spool of blank CDs, and in return he filled those blanks up with records he had on heavy rotation. Turns out this was a treasure trove of backpack classics: Company Flow and El-P, Cannibal Ox, cLOUDDEAD, and – most crucially – stream-of-consciousness experimental oddballs Antipop Consortium. Of the Antipoppers, Beans was a particular favourite. There was something about his delivery. In sports, they’d say it was down to ‘intangibles’. For a summer or two, while I put off grad school, those CD-Rs didn’t leave my car. And then I moved on. For whatever reason, as an adult my engagement with hip-hop has been in fits and starts.

A couple of years earlier, Sasu Ripatti released Multila under his Vladislav Delay alias. A perfect, mind-rewiring excursion into expansive, occasionally glacial dub techno, it was a formative record for me and a lot of my college radio cronies, one of those albums that clues you in to previously unknown musical potentialities. So, it seems weirdly fitting, a little magical even, that these two characters would convene, decades later – at a time when my interest in hip-hop was at an all-time low – to cook up ZWAARD, an album that reminds me of why I loved the genre in the first place.

Technically speaking, from a PR POV, ZWAARD is Beans’s umpteenth solo LP, his first in six years, but let’s be real: this is a full collabo, the Beans x Vlad Delay crossover no-one knew they wanted (let alone needed). And while I can’t be sure about the exact division of labour, these jams feel like an exercise in action and reaction, in cause and effect, with Beans navigating freewheeling sonic architecture as constructed by Ripatti. Which, let’s be clear, is not meant to diminish Beans or his bars. Only a 99th percentile emcee could hang with the beats here, or even make any use of them at all. Beans, on the other hand, owns these productions effortlessly, no mortgage, title in hand.

Production-wise, Ripatti deploys his full post-2020 stylistic arsenal. My dude has been so wildly prolific since the turn of the decade that only true Delay heads like myself could possibly follow it all. In that sense, ZWAARD is an almost ideal Ripatti sampler, without ever seeming like a toss off, or a collection of off-cuts. There are the wind-blown sheets of frigid noise, as abrasive as blinding sun. There are the frenetic drums, seemingly rooted in footwork, claps everywhere, beats discarded as soon as they’re adopted. There are dub-through-a-kaleidoscope constructions, reminiscent of his deeply underrated collaborative LP with Sly & Robbie. The vibe is kick drums stumbling punch drunk through an ice cave. It’s next level stuff – a nightmare of shattered rhythms and hyperkinetic verbiage – in a good way.

It feels weird being a 44-year-old guy – listening to a record by a 52-year-old rapper and a 48-year-old producer – proclaiming, “This album restored my faith in hip-hop!” It’s basically ultimate “OK boomer,” 3.5 stars in Rolling Stone type shit. And while that isn’t quite the case (I never completely lost my faith in hip-hop, not really), it’s pretty darn close. Listen, I know I’m getting old, and Beans does, too. He is “one of the flyest emcees on AARP,” after all. So, I’ll concede this could be a midlife crisis. Maybe I’m reaching out in vain for my fading youth. But the thing is, this thing rips. Maybe I’m right. Maybe the kids could stand to learn a thing or two. Maybe Ripatti and Beans could teach ‘em.

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