This isn’t so much a review of Como Asesinar a Felipes‘ 2008 release, Colores y Cadáveres, as it is an inspection of the quintet within the context of that album.
At the root, CAF is an amalgamation of progressive jazz and hip-hop, but they are by no means contained by that label. DJ Spacio’s carefully-crafted sampling adds an atmospheric texture not often found in either genre, while the group’s jazz canvas–delivered via bass, drums, and keys–gives new life to his more traditional hip-hop method of scratching.
Providing additional flexibility to the group is the bass guitar, which grants them the opportunity to project further outside the jazz realm and into rock-related riffs and climaxes.
The keys remain haunting throughout the album, drifting seamlessly between that chaotically familiar jazz ramble and a more tonal sort of spaciness.
Perhaps the most interesting relationship at play here, though, is between the drums and vocals. A criticism of hip-hop has been that it can be too vocal-oriented (as if all music needs to fit some universal set of standards to actually be considered music), that hip-hop percussion can be robotic and monotonous, even when the shit pops.
The integration of new technologies and the increasing accessibility of samples, sound libraries, and manipulation tools has corrected this perspective to an extent by allowing programming percussionists a greater capacity to compose in a more texture-conscious fashion. Really, these changes have simply circumvented the redundant percussion criticism by diverting the listener’s attention from rhythm to tone.
CAF destroys the prejudice in a direct manner, however. The percussion (excluding bass) are almost exclusively performed on an acoustic set of drums. That is to say…they ‘re breaking the mold rhythmically instead of tonally. Their percussion deviates from the vocals every bit as much as their vocals deviate from the percussion; the two are not inexplicably joined at the hip as the song runs its course. They are related elements converging and convexing, flirting both with chaos and reason.
In other words, if conventional hip-hop were the unhappily married couple staying together out of spite and/or apathy, then CAF is the eclectic swinging couple inviting you to the key party they’re hosting this weekend while the kids are at grandma’s house. That was weird. Just listen:
CAF has been with a label in Santiago, Chile (where they are based) named Potoco Discos, but they are also working with Koolarrow Records for their next release, which I am currently trying to get my hands on.