El Michels Affair and Black Thought
Glorious Game

(Big Crown)


Leno Michels’ love affair with R&B goes way back. Starting out as a player in The Mighty Imperials when he was just a teen, he’s been releasing his own music through his own outfit the El Michels Affair since 2005 and has cemented a reputation as one of the standard bearers bringing funk and soul to contemporary rap.

As you’ve probably guessed by now, Michel is an old-schooler at heart, and therefore any collaboration with legendary Philly rapper and Roots founder Black Thought was only ever going to go one way. Glorious Game is living proof of the old adage, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Recorded Bomb Squad style, with the group first jamming out compositions live and then returning to cut up and rearrange their own work, these songs contort themselves naturally into all sorts of pleasing shapes.

The result is an hour or so of flawless flows set against a tapestry of jazzified loops and passionate breakbeats, all held together by Thought’s imperious sense of groove and timing. A portal through time back to the hazy days of early-’90s hip hop, it’s an album that stands shoulder to shoulder with the hazy effortlessness of acts like Stetsasonic, J5, and yes, The Roots in their early days.