Author: BD Joyce
- Artist: Adam F
- Album: Kaos The Anti-Acoustic Warfare
- Year of Release: 2001
- Country: UK
- Label: EMI
- Format: Jewelcase CD
- Catalogue Number: 7243 5 34250 2 9
Something of a wild card in my CD collection, it’s highly unlikely that I would own this particular album had it not been given to me at a generous 100% discount on release in 2001 during my tenure as Music Editor of the student newspaper at university. The passing of the years has not resulted in the awkwardly-titled Kaos The Anti-Acoustic Warfare discovering the audience that it largely missed out on at the time, or becoming retrospectively heralded as the kind of classic of the genre that might’ve persuaded me to make a purchase by now. In fact, perhaps because of the fact that the lack of any real follow-up deprived Adam F’s putative career as a hip hop producer of any real momentum, the record now languishes in the discount bin of musical history, a barely-remembered footnote in the unceasing forward development of hip hop, the driving force behind a large proportion of 21st century popular music.
This lack of momentum can also be blamed on a couple of other, admittedly largely unavoidable, factors. Firstly, prior to this release, Adam F had a relatively limited hip hop pedigree. A successful drum ‘n’ bass producer and DJ, this album is his first extensive foray into an adjacent, but ultimately different form of electronic music. Although, due to the major label backing, and participation of some heavyweight rappers, Kaos… emerged to significant fanfare, it is also fair to say that the hype was not matched by the anticipation of the listening public, and as such, Adam F struggled to build much of a fanbase outside of his more natural drum ‘n’ bass milieu. Secondly, while the revolving cast of MCs (including members of De La Soul, Pharaoh Monch, and LL Cool J to name but a few) raises a level of interest that Adam F’s name alone would struggle to elicit, it means that the album itself lacks cohesion and fails to really hang together as anything other than a disjointed collection of songs.
The slightly uneven nature of the material does not mean, however, that there’s not enjoyment to be had with the album though. Following a short and portentous intro that almost fooled my inner goth into expecting ‘This Corrosion’ to issue forth from the speakers, ‘Smash Sumthin” commences proceedings with one of the less subtle songs ever committed to tape. Featuring the recognisably gruff tones of Wu-Tang associate Redman rhyming over booming, distorted bass and a surprisingly deft guitar sample, this is big, commercial party music built for the club, and if one overlooks the somewhat juvenile lyrics it’s undeniably fun, the rap equivalent of the kind of nu metal which was reaching the apex of its popularity at around the same time. Similarly, LL Cool J’s ‘Greatest Of All Time’ showcases his ability in a strident lyrical performance, with beats to match, that it’s difficult to criticise, regardless of whether you’re in agreement with his assessment of his own capabilities.
Much of the album offers less successful retreads of this sound, often utilising the kind of title that is less artistic statement, and more instruction. Both ‘Stand Clear’ and ‘Listen Here’ are dominated by rolling, distorted basslines, redolent of Adam F’s day job in the drum ‘n’ bass clubs of London, and decorated variously by staccato piano loops and somewhat overbearing synth string stabs. The latter also sounds uncomfortably close to the kind of chart R&B that was especially prevalent in the early 2000s, but lacks even a modicum of the production ingenuity that propelled Destiny’s Child and the Aaliyah to enormous success.
Counter-intuitively, Kaos… is frequently more enjoyable when Adam F creates a production that is less reliant on the huge basslines and thumping beats that he is known for. As the bass takes a back seat on ‘Time 4 Da True’, replaced by a funky keyboard sample, and old-school breakbeat, it’s the album’s first moment of real class. It’s no surprise to find that the pleasingly relaxed flow that adorns the track is courtesy of Dave and Pos of De La Soul, more of a surprise to find that Adam F is so adept at creating a musical setting so fitting for them to work their magic. The clipped beats and Nile Rodgers funk of ‘Karma (Comes Back Around)’ which immediately follows, continues this looser, more fluid feel, and provides welcome relief from the more bombastic sounds of the rest of the record.
The final four tracks, which comprise a single track proper, ‘Last Dayz’, together with an intro and an excessive two separate outros, all based around an apocalyptic theme, seem to suggest that Kaos… is in some way supposed to be a concept album. It’s not clear, however, how any of the preceding tracks fit into this apparent concept and in many ways that is the album in microcosm. It’s not instrinsically bad, although it is dated. The epic sounding synths wouldn’t be out of place on a Dimmu Borgir album, but sound incongruous now in the context of a genre which has seen mainstream hip hop become ever more minimal and sparse in production.
Kaos… is a mediocre album that promised much, but gets ultimately bogged down in lyrical braggadocio and cliches, and a production which is too homogeneous. It reveals the limitations of a rap record made by a producer, with little connection to the MCs that provide the vocal content. Although the production is clearly a huge part of great hip hop, it’s the symbiotic connection between the MC and producers that makes Nas’ Illmatic, or Wu-Tang Clan’s 36 Chambers such coherent and magnetic records, and this album just doesn’t have it. As a collection of singles, it is functional, but as an album judged against different criteria, it falls short.