Apr 18, 2012

[REVIEW] Tristate of Mind

Cover Art Painted By Alex Andreyev


In a teaser promo for "Tristate of Mind", producer Tristate took a piece of his new project out on the streets of New York and asked random people to listen to it.  And there's a great moment when this man is listening to it and he gets this "far off" look in his eyes, as if he's somewhere else.

And that's exactly how I felt listening to this.  As if I had been transported to some other place, some other land, some other time.  He said that it was like he was standing on a hilltop looking over the land, and I agree.  I didn't know exactly what he meant at the time, but now that I have listened to this project several times I wholeheartedly concur.

There's this bit near the beginning that sounds almost like you'd hear it in a big epic blockbuster film in the scene where the giant army is marching forward to conquer another army.  Something that would not be out of place in a Zhang Yimou epic such as The Curse of the Golden Flower or Hero.


When I first heard of the concept for this I found myself laughing because this is something that I've sort of been pushing for for a long time.  Combining Classical music with hip hop.  To some that might seem a bit odd and untenable, but in fact it's not.  Numerous hip hop classics have utilized classical music in some form, whether it's Nas' "Hate Me Now" or "I Know I Can" incorporating Carmina Burana, or Beethoven’s Für Elise, respectively, or Ludacris who used two classical pieces (Mozart's Requiem and Dvorak's Symphony No. 9) for his song "Welcome to Atlanta", or even Coolio's "C U When U Get There" which samples Pachelbel's "Canon in D".

And of course everyone by now has heard Robin Thicke's "By The Time I Get You Alone" which samples Walter Murphy's "A 5th of Beethoven" which in turn is a takeoff of Beethoven's 5th, which while not hip hop, still signifies an embrace by popular music whether it's hip hop or R&B or pop that has found comfort in adapting pieces of Classical music in crafting a newer piece.

And when DJ Crazy Chris was still making mashups, I often suggested to him that he take on a completely different mashup using hip hop acapellas and classical music.  I reasoned, jokingly, that there was certainly no dearth of classical music "instrumentals" to choose from.

My suspect attempts at humor aside, he wasn't going for it, as I imagine that would have been a massive undertaking and not nearly as simplistic as I envisioned.

So then imagine my surprise when I heard that Tristate was not only going to marry together a sound of hip hop and classical, but he was also going to do it as a completely original piece.  No samples, no crafting a beat out of an established classical work, no he decided to create whathe is billing as the world's first original classical/hip hop piece ever written.


"Tristate of Mind" is an emotional rollercoaster of a musical piece.  As Tristate himself says, in regards to this project, “I composed Tristate of Mind by pushing myself creatively to a place I’ve never been in order to uniquely contribute to music culture and music’s future. I pushed myself so that maybe our culture, humanity itself, may do the same. Something dies in us in the absence true creativity and innovation.”

Clocking in at a tight 24 minutes and change, I think it's a perfect length for this.  It's, in a way, similar to some of the Roots' more recent albums.  They have a story to tell and they have no room for filler material, most evident in their most recent album "Undun" which I reviewed here back when it came out. There were some who complained at the time about the short length, but I felt it was a perfect length in which to tell their story.  

Many classic albums have clocked in around 40 minutes or less, including Enigma's 1991 classic debut MCMXC a.d. which spawned the massive hit single "Sadeness Part 1" and was most known for the producer and creator, Michael Cretu's ingenious use of Gregorian Chants to create a wholly hypnotic and erotic album that still holds up to this day.

So I think the 24 minute runtime is good because it allows the emotional ride to last long enough that you fully appreciate it and enjoy it, but not too long to where you grow restless.  

One suggestion though is to get yourself some good headphones and listen to this through them.  It's just a whole different listening experience to hear this seeming to rise up from inside of you as you listen to Opera Singer Nicole Yazolino's Soprano voice echoing through your head.  It's a truly unique listening session that cannot be replicated by simply listening through your computer speakers or stereo.  Those are fine to listen to it on and it will still be quite enjoyable, however to truly hear it, I encourage you to slip on your headphones and lay back and enjoy the ride.

Tristate of Mind is now available on Bandcamp.com for $4.99.  I recommend it very much.

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