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BMMNM Vol. 1 Breakbox

Wednesday, Aug 23 2006
The last thing any self-respecting MC wants to be called is "organic," so we offer some harder-sounding lingo for RadioActive's long-awaited debut: "Organgsta rap," maybe, or "Glockoustic jazz." Nah, neither of those terms is playful enough to describe the veteran beatboxer's BMMNM Vol. 1 Breakbox, a one-man b-boy collage slapped together from snippets of freestyles, live performances, and studio sessions. Radio is best known for his long-standing association with Michael Franti and Spearhead, but the Western Addition local has for years been a host of Bay Area open-mic nights and battles and spit (both lyrically and rhythmically) onstage with Talib Kweli, Galactic, Ani DiFranco, and a ton more. As this disc attests, dude can turn heads rapping in a one-on-one cipher or in front of a live band, or beatboxing a cappella or into a pan flute — a signature move I saw him pull back in, like, 2003, when he first started hand-distributing BMMNM at shows. Unfortunately, age somewhat weakens the album. It's a funky, grassroots self-portrait, but it's not the professionally executed, fully realized release RadioActive is capable of. Money shots like "Digital Lyricals Vs. Infinite Visuals," "Energy," and "This Is How" reveal him as a powerful songwriter; the latter, recorded with acid jazzbos Top Four Flights, swings delicately but incessantly, a 12-minute jam that spools out into improv and back to a tightly wound chorus. It's a killer track, slick and jazzy and musically sophisticated. But certainly not organic.

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Jonathan Zwickel


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