The guest-stacked second Quakers LP is a showcase for their most overlooked architect
It’s a very different time in hip-hop now than when Quakers released their self-titled debut album in 2012.
At that point, the trio comprised of the UK’s Portishead’s main man Geoff Barrow (under the guise of Fuzzface), his engineer Stuart Matthews as 7STU7 and Australia’s Katalyst, put together a 70-minute 40-track collection of tight and inventive beats over which 30, mainly unknown, American rappers flowed free. The whirlwind that is Quakers blew past without causing enough damage.
Album: II: The Next Wave
Label: Stones Throw
★★★★ (4/5 stars)
Eight years later, amongst the predictable trap beats and identikit MCs of today’s hip-hop, the time could not be more right, and more wrong, for Quakers’ second album, II – The Next Wave. Right because minds and ears are so ready and so desperate for something with substance, beats with creativity, sampling with imagination, articulate rappers with a point of view that goes beyond their own living room. Wrong because II – The Next Wave doesn’t sound like anything in the hip hop or pop charts. It doesn’t have the rappers-for-hire that pollute so many tracks, and the production is meticulous without sacrificing artistry.
Now going as Supa K, the one formerly known as Katalyst is at the helm of Quakers—which he always was anyway—with the other two members taking a backseat and the collaborators positioned as more of a loose collective. II – The Next Wave thankfully has a lot in common with its predecessor. Although there are 33 tracks and 31 rappers, packed into 50 minutes they are direct and brief, stitching together a variety of stories that make up an anthology that chronicles the present time.
AUDIO: Quakers: Supa K Heavy Tremors Beat Tape
The ethos of Quakers’ beats has always been a bit of a throwback, relying on scratchy vinyl and vintage drum machines, creaky analog synthesizers and sampled mid-century dialogue. Yet there is a futuristic feel, a next wave if you will, to the Quakers sound that brings attention to voices that have something to say and the experimental musical vehicle that delivers the message with aplomb.
Where Quakers featured mainly unknown voices, II – The Next Wave has a few recognizable names such as Jeru The Damaja, The Koreatown Oddity and Guilty Simpson who shows up a few times including on the retro “Duck & Cover.” In contrast, Bob Banner shouts “put the needle to the record like it’s morphine” on “Morphine.” Before you have a chance to digest what he’s saying, the album flips to the next song and an entirely different mood with Sampa the Great’s childlike tones on the calypso-flavored “Approach With Caution.” The panicked pace of “All Of It” creates an uneasy bed for Boog Brown’s fearless and effortless flow. The rappers are an international bunch, but the unifying message is one of political frustration.
In 2012 Supa K said, “We’re not doing something totally new and never done before. We’re trying to do something isn’t being done as much as it was previously, or as much as would like to hear.” It’s as if Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr’s epigram, “The more things change, the more they stay the same,” was coined with Quakers in mind.