Stro Elliot – Self Titled (2016)
L.A. beat maker impresses with debut full length LP
by Mikey Casey
Live performance of Stro Elliot from the Soulection Live Sessions.
Aside from seeing the name on social media I had no knowledge of Stro Elliot other than his association with L.A. and the beat scene but after hearing his self titled LP released at the tail end of 2016 on Street Corner Music I was intrigued and wanted to know more.
His ability to flip a sample and make it into something special is something harder to get excited about when artists like James Brown or Kool and the Gang have been sampled so many times throughout hip hop history. Many of the casual listeners of hip hop out there have probably heard Kool and the Gang’s Summer Madness reworked or recognize a James Brown sample when it is used, but Stro never leans to heavily on the source material and only uses a sample sparingly and to useful effect.
Soul II Stro is such a dope flip of Soul II Soul’s Back to Life sample and a good example of how he uses what he needs from his source without relying on it. He uses enough in the beginning so you know instantly who it is but then launches into his own thing utilizing just a couple vocal snippets (“However do you…”) by blending them to sweet effect into his boom-bap structure.
You hear more of this efficiency on James Baby where he flips Browns’ I Got that Feelin’ into a funky cacophonous racket that will sound so dope on a big soundsystem with the right deejay cutting it into a mix. You recognize the sample from the jump being used in its original recording until the “Baby, Baby, Baby” part propels the track into Stro territory and the sampled elements are woven into something else entirely and sounds like a B-Boys breakbeat dream. The drums are the first to enter and instantly you can hear that the tight/slick funk of Brown’s original is gone and replaced with something that reminds me of Magic Drum Orchestra’s reworking of Drop It Like It’s Hot. The drums almost sound like a marching band (all skins; no cymbals) and there is so much hollow sounding space in between the notes that when the other elements, specifically the horns, make their appearance all the instruments blend together to create a really interesting break.
Drama 4 Kathy may have been sourced from 50-60’s jazz but the source of the sample, although it is familiar, escapes me. The first seven seconds gives a small taste of the original source and you can tell its follows a meandering course in the jazz-sense of stretching out time and messing with rhythm but the samples are reworked into a contemporary rhythm, no longer meandering and straightened out to follow a more direct course that is signified by the cadence of the snare hit. If I didn’t know better I would think that this was an unreleased cut from the Madlib Shades of Blue sessions.
The one anomaly on the full length is the sole vocal cut called Virginia Wolf. A nice addition that is unexpected on the instrumentally grounded record but the vocal flow, cadence, and delivery sit well on the crest of the bass/drum interplay (Note: I would give props to the performer but finding a credible confirmation as to who it is is eluding me). Based on this example I look forward to more productions with an MC as a collaborator.
This is a solid beat record that deejay’s will have a lot of fun with. The tracks are short and barely go beyond the 4 minute length. These tracks can really take on a life of their own in the very capable hands of a JRocc or Lefto and records like this are meant to be heard in a mix where their impact can be utilized to the fullest extent.