A large majority of hip-hop outfits in the modern day culture of music, and even dating back to hip-hop’s inception, have relied heavily on samples and digitally generated beats as means for instrumentation. Rarely do you come across a band that uses actual instruments in a live setting as the foundation to which verses are rhymed upon. The Roots have mastered that concept. Emerging out of Fresno, California, 40 Watt Hype, led by songwriter/emcee/producer Aaron Wall, has modified that style into an instrumental form of hip-hop and Latin soul in its sophomore record, Push
, released last spring on Royal Dutch Company Music.
The words and music you hear are the product of songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Aaron Wall whose diverse background has directly influenced 40 Watt Hype’s distinct sound. Wall, a descendent of Dutch ancestry, learned Spanish on the streets of Fresno and the Latin culture that he found himself immersed in became an integral part of his musical foundation. On Push you will hear smooth and soulful R&B vocals mixed in with lyrically strong hip-hop verses that keep pace with pulsing and steady drum beats and harmonized with fluctuating keyboard arrangements.
“Only the Strong Survive” is a motivating song that sets the band’s vibe and immediately shows off their versatility. “Only the strong survive and I’m Darwin,” raps Wall in the funky transition midway through the track. Lyrically, “Echoes” is one of the best songs on the record which features the complexity of Wall’s wordplay and compositional skill. Reminiscent of Talib Kweli’s “Get By,” the lead piano riff maintains the direction of the song and has a similar alternating feel in its note structure. The bridge in the middle of the tune is a high point as it features a chorus and adds a thrust to the track that embodies a neighborhood-like feeling.
Instrumentally speaking, the blend of deep grooves and jazz-funk sets 40 Watt Hype apart from other bands and in regard to the message, a universal tone of not giving up lies within all of the tracks on Push
. Halfway through the album, a short instrumental piece titled “Royal Dutch Insty” displays the level of musicianship and the core of the band. The song shows the connection between the driving keyboards, pounding horn/sax section and the high tempo of the percussion section. Another track with strong verses from Wall is “Feel This Music” that features a distorted guitar riff throughout the song and exits with a physical hollow solo backed with a brassy trombone. Following is a song titled “Mas y Mas” that imbeds Spanish verses within a revolutionary body that has you up out of your seat in the back half of the song.
When you listen to a record like Push
, it’s almost like you’re feeling the live show right through the headphones. Definitely a band with a positive outlook, 40 Watt Hype is a rare breed of instrumental hip-hop soul and the Latin influence that is rooted within the music only gives off more energy.