On Thurs., Nov. 17, local production teams Royal Flush and SMKA offered its first, then second listen of Stankonia Sessions, at — well, Stankonia Studios. As we announced last month, the compilation features artists who performed at this year's A3C Hip-Hop Festival, and it's also Grooveshark.com's first rap-oriented collaboration in its Session series, after the online music community teamed with Gainesville, Fla.'s FEST in 2010.
The speakers blared some of OutKast's greatest hits, including Aquemini's “Skew It Up the Bar-B,” as Mike Walbert, A3C artist director and SMKA business manager, served Skyy cranberries from its Crown Royale-sponsored bar — warming up a crowd that would later triple in size, from 15 to more than 50.
“As soon as we got in, it was like a factory in there,” Royal Flush's Jeron Ward said to listeners as he motioned to his right, toward the recording booths. The young producers behind Royal Flush and SMKA holed themselves up in Stankonia for three days straight, completing some tracks at either 6 or 7 a.m., and opening its doors to horn players and A3C artists like Killer Mike, Rapper Big Pooh and 9th Wonder. (“It was humbling,” Rick Wallkk, the other half of Royal Flush, later said of working with Wonder. “It was like seeing your first child born.”)
Stankonia Sessions opens with the already-leaked “Heaven's Door” — featuring slowly swelling horns, a limping bass, a snippet of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s “I've Been to the Mountaintop” speech and three emcees (Joe Scudda, Termanology and Jon Connor) talking of tempting fate with weed, pills, spirits and the Bible on hand. It's a loaded and slightly sinister introduction to what turns out to be a mixed bag of sounds and subject matter: “Bitches and Drugs,” with its pixelated shimmer and all, is about — well, yeah. In the SMKA-produced “No Lies in the Verses,” local rapper Jarren Benton asks with his “Real Slim Shady”-inspired flow, “You know how I know we're having sex tonight? Bitch, I'm stronger than you.” (Of course, as it plays, he tells me that he doesn't actually do what he says.) But then Stankonia Sessions warms up significantly with the velvety choruses of “The Journey” and “Part of Your Game.” The latter pairs 9th Wonder with his own Jamla protege Rapsody — a “rebirth of hip-hop,” as Wallkk proclaimed.
As indicated by the bobbing heads in the room, Stankonia Sessions should be able to tide listeners over as both SMKA and Royal Flush wrap up 2011 and gear up for 2012. As they told bloggers in front of a Stankonia soundboard, SMKA is still hard at work on a George Clinton-Aleon Craft collaboration Mothership: The Decatur Connection, and Royal Flush cannot wait to reveal Big Boi's forthcoming song featuring Little Dragon — which they promise will be the first cut off Daddy Fat Sax: Soul Funk Crusader. “Even if it's not the first single, it's gonna be the first single,” Wallkk said.
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