Aleon Craft is an underground musical artist hailing from Georgia. Some remember him as “Big Marc” of Da Backwudz, a hip-hop duo consisting of Mr. Craft and his cousin, ShoNuff. Craft’s MySpace page describes his style of music as a blend of hip-hop, funk, and soul which he dubs “solar-hop”. His new mixtape, Mothership: The Decatur Connection, is done in collaboration with Funk music legend, George Clinton, and produced by SMKA and Funkprobosci. Mr. Clinton has been sampled by, and featured on, many tracks by major artists and producers, from Outkast to the Wu-Tang Clan. However, this is the first time that Clinton has written music specifically for a collaborative album with a hip-hop artist.
The album artwork is the best place to start with Mothership: The Decatur Connection. It is a cartoon styled and colored cover with the caricatures of Craft and Clinton situated playfully, yet assertively, over our planet. At first glance, I interpreted George Clinton as a sunglasses toting Jedi. It’s surreal, to say the least.
The album itself is an atypical blend of hip-hop and funk that makes for a compelling sound. An interesting and funky combination of various instruments and samples keep (most of) the beats sounding fresh and original. The opening track “Copyright Trolls” opens with a dialogue (public service announcement?) contrasting the major sides of the debate regarding copyright. It then moves into a trippy, jazzy breakdown that serves as the introduction to the album and the track “No Strings Attached.” “No Strings Attached” is a great song to summarize the album with. Some of Aleon Craft’s rhymes are funny, some are provocative, and some are neither. I was intrigued by the direction the song could have gone in but I found some of the instrumentation off-putting.
On tracks like “Make It Out” and “On The Air,” Craft’s lyrics blend fluidly with the funky beats to achieve the sound that I have to assume he was going for. When this sound is properly achieved, the songs are enjoyable and interesting similar to Blackalicious. With some of the other songs though, the blend feels contrived and forced. While tracks like “Ghetto Dope” I found practically unlistenable.
Overall, I thought the album was definitely interesting and worth a listen. Some people will identify more with the funk-based sound than others. I admit I am not familiar with the Funk genre; I can’t speak from that side of the fence and there is probably instrumentation or style that I am not attuned to. One would think the project of blending hip-hop and funk would ideally be accessible to fans of either genre. It is great to see up and coming artists try unique blends of instruments, straying outside the realm of what pop-radio says music should sound like. Though I appreciated Aleon Craft’s efforts and some tracks were above average, I cannot say I found myself overly enthusiastic about the album.