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Wednesday, Oct 29 2003
Los Angeles' best-kept secret might not be its taco stands, but a local hip hop producer by the name of Omid Walizadeh. Since the early '90s, Walizadeh has been making tracks for some of the finest rappers in the L.A. underground scene: Freestyle Fellowship, Shapeshifters, Abstract Rude, and Busdriver to name a few. His stellar production on 1998's Beneath the Surface compilation earned him a reputation as one of hip hop's most talented up-and-comers, but he never had an equally strong follow-up record. Until now.

Arriving on the heels of last year's mostly ignored instrumental album, Distant Drummer, Monolith finds Walizadeh returning to what he does best, producing amazing tracks for his talented circle of rapper-friends. Buck 65, the grumpy old man trapped in the body of a young Canadian MC, talks about his favorite subject, baseball, on the accordion-filled "Double Header": "So let's play too/ There may not be a tomorrow/ Magpies/ Wiener dogs/ Let's at least shag flies/ No run limit/ No infield fly rule/ I haven't felt this alone since high school." Aceyalone, Atmosphere's Slug, and Living Legends members Luckiam and Murs get together on the brilliant uptempo posse cut "Live From Tokyo," while Hymnal delivers stunning and poetic performances on "Robert L. Ripley" and "Club Apotheosis," combining emotional lyrics with Walizadeh's slow, melodic production.

The handful of instrumental tracks on Monolith are nothing to scoff at either. From the funky sitar jam "Sound of the Sitar" to the staccato boom-bap of "Speakers Hot," Walizadeh demonstrates that his work can stand apart from the MCs and still shine. This combination of instrumentals and guest rappers creates the perfect sonic balance. Here's hoping that this producer doesn't remain a secret much longer.

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Anna Klafter


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