And it's not all so flippant. "Falling," a mournful arrangement of strings/bass/ beats, finds Perkins lamenting what happens to a society where ignorance triumphs. The oddly plangent "Momma" ("It was you who gave me life/ Momma") big-ups Mom over a bubbling backing that might sound maternally soothing if it weren't so unhinged. With "Money," on the other hand, it's hard to figure out what Perkins really thinks: In a faltering falsetto, he sings, "It's all I live for/ For the love of cash," and one suspects an ironic intention -- but Perkins isn't giving anything away.
Madlib's production on A Lil' Light ranks up there with his most inspired studio moments. Taking the basic template for minor-key hip hop, Madlib mirrors Perkins' poignant, unpredictable drawl with shuffling drums, fluttering mandolins, and B-movie strings weighted with nostalgia. Is the album more than an important blip on the soul music radar? Probably not -- I doubt D'Angelo is worried about losing his crown to this loose-larynxed trickster. But at the very least, Perkins proves his point about the power of the human voice: Without fallibility, there's no such thing as soul. Looks like it's back to the drawing board for the Autotuner R&D department.