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Album review: Contact's “Encounters Of A Strange Kind”

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Contact's “Encounters Of A Strange Kind” album

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There was a point in Saint Louis' recent history where everyone and their grandmother was working on a mixtape or fixing to make the best rap album ever. And that made it extremely difficult for any one artist to bust out of the group and make their name known. Fast forward several years, and the rap crowd in the STL is still crowded, but there are several names who have managed to make their sound stand out from the rest – and Contact is one of them.

His latest album is called “Encounters Of A Strange Kind”, and why it's called that becomes apparent as soon as the first track opens. Most tracks sound like they arrived at Contact's studio via spaceship. He drops lines above the sound of electronic house beats from the eighties, which makes sense because that's the era Contact's from. And when he's not musically mixing together hip hop and Twin Peaks, he's dropping in spoken word poetry or extensively sampling dialogue from a film or riffing on nursery rhymes for music.

Some of his tracks are amazingly experimental, straddling the odd line between Midwest rap and chiptune space music. “(MMM) Money Making Mitch” and “Will I” are definitely the stand out tracks in this regard. “(MMM) Money Making Mitch” has vocal tracks laid on top of each other set against electronic beats and creeping guitars. It's a trippy track and it's one of the best on the album.

“Will I” is the more controlled of the two, but by no means the most normal. Contact mixes up house beats, New Wave, gospel, and the occasional electronic riff as he raps, his own voice echoing from line to line. It's a song of questions and possibilities, a song about a man wondering how he'll die, and Contact owns it.

The most heavily derivative track is the “Lame” remix, featuring Kaseeno, Cutta, and Young Ville. It's reliant on a lot of the standard rap tropes, from its samples to the horns and the hook. There's nothing exactly wrong with it by any stretch, but on an album that seems determined to break standards, it is very prosaic by comparison.

There are so many other solid tracks on this album, it's hard to pick out any in particular. “Bounce” was made for the radio and the clubs alike. The chorus is ridiculously catchy and Control has a great handle on his flow. “They Say I Grind” throws a spin on the music for “Three Blind Mice” as the background for his lines, accompanied again by Cutta and Young Ville, who manage to jump in without disrupting the track's rhythm. “Encounters” and “So Visious” bring the album back to earth, capturing the reality of living as a young black man in one of the most violent cities in the United States.

It is no question that this album sets Contact apart from his peers. Now it's up to Saint Louis fans to lift his efforts into the atmosphere.

Contact's “Encounters Of A Strange Kind” are currently available for purchase via his website.

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