"REAL PEOPLE" Kollie and Shaw.
Rhody’s hip-hop community continues to flourish, as we salute the rap renaissance around these parts over the past few years with yet another must-have release courtesy of PVD lyricist Zumo Kollie and soulful jazz/rap collective Milkbread. The collaborative debut EP will be available this weekend for download at milkbreadmusic.com, or pick up the limited edition disc at the album release party at Aurora (formerly Roots Café) this Saturday (the 27th). They will perform the five-track EP in its entirety, plus “a couple Milkbread and Kollie originals thrown in for extra flavor,” according to Milkbread frontman (lead vox and tenor sax) Benjamin Shaw when we caught up earlier this week.
Milkbread was birthed in 2010 when the seven members met while studying jazz at University of Rhode Island, and eventually dropped the lively self-titled debut album in 2012 (available at milkbread.bandcamp.com). We first heard fellow URI grad (and La Salle alum) Zumo Kollie in ’09 with his official debut The Idiot Savant followed by the excellent 2011 mixtape, The Last Showing. Kollie has referred to his buttery wordplay as “elegant ADD”; he’s a smooth assassin similar to subtly surgical Rhody rhyme heroes Swann Notty and Jon Hope. Zumo Kollie’s flow shined across a bevy of beats, including one from Brooklyn-via-Providence electro duo Javelin on “Zero Hour.”
Shaw and Kollie first kicked the collaboration idea around in 2012, and earlier this year the first single, “I See,” was released. In classic rap fashion, the EP was delayed “after almost a year of refining and waiting,” according to Shaw, as their post-collegiate focus shifted toward navigating adulthood, “starting new careers, and sort of becoming ‘real people.’
“We’ve been writing music that more matches our style nowadays — a more mature and focused sound than what you heard on our first album, which reflects who we are as musicians and as humans,” he said.
The EP was placed in the highly capable hands of producers Andrew Brown and Nick Sollecito (Bored With Four, the Dear Hunter), who tracked the instrumentals composed by Shaw and bassist Dylan LaGamma. The horn section of Shaw, Chris Gagnon (alto sax), and Seth Bailey (trumpet) provide plenty of spirited chops on the EP, dialing up live original measures without any sampling, “but rather an attempt at invoking the spirit of the music that influenced us.” Tom White (keys), Matt Reagan (guitar), and Paul DiMartino (drums) round out the Milkbread septet.
Zumo coolly escorts the rhythm section with a spoken word intro on the opening track, “Questions,” before firing off a 90-second barrage of conscientious bars highlighting his background: “Product of refugees from Liberian colonies/Obviously the blood of the slaves runs through my arteries/Use my art to do my part to start a modern prophecy.” Kollie longs for his vintage Beamer on “89” (that hook has been stuck in my head all week), and LaGamma’s double bass climbs up “Evergreen Chimneys” as Kollie decries classroom history lessons while hot-footing for the exit: “This is for the pressure, the pressin’ on my temple as I’m sittin’ through a lecture/It’s been a few semesters since I shitted on professors/No-talent hacks who couldn’t grasp their talents better.” And the full-blown jazz breakdown midway through “Hello” goes off the rails and lands somewhere between Charles Mingus and MF Doom. Fans of J. Dilla, the Roots, and Guru’s Jazzmatazz series should jump all over this EP, particularly Golden Era rap fossils like myself.