It seems unlikely that in a distant future Ski Beatz will put out a neck-breaking hit, a jackpot single that will stay on the charts forever, or a club hit that will make him a millionaire for the rest of his days. And it seems even more unlikely that his signature will turn up on the cover of an album that might change the destiny of hip hop, or at least aspire to do so. In his day, he might have managed to, when he was involved in and partly responsible for the making of “Reasonable Doubt,” Jay-Z’s debut, and a golden future lay ahead of him. But faithful to his free, unpredictable, informal spirit, the North Carolina producer never wanted to jump on the bandwagon of easy success, and he preferred to pursue an equally or even more licit goal: to find his own inimitable sound. He has done so already mature, after some years of relative silence, and along with Damon Dash, who as well as being the owner of the label DD172, also acts as our star’s conscientious, dedicated patron.
The “24 Hour Karate School” saga began at the end of 2010 with a first episode that was a total rediscovery for old fans with a weak memory, a totally unexpected turn, not so much because of the silence of his career until the appearance, months earlier, of Curren$y’s official debut produced by him, as much as because of the creative evolution shown by his songs. He was another Ski Beatz, more organic, unafraid to include instruments in his studio routine, less impulsive, and, especially, more abstract and unclassifiable. Two episodes later, the trilogy has reached a new dimension with “24 Hour Karate School Presents: Twilight,” an album that stylizes and adds nuances to that swampy, toxic, pot-smoking hip hop that he has used to reinvent himself, and which uses sandpaper to smooth away the more embattled, electric tone of “24 Hour Karate School Pt. II.” This is another change that helps to define the more perfectionist side of his discourse.
This time, the distorted guitars give way to nocturnal saxophones, melancholy keyboards, and playful synthesizers. Once again, the surprise factor appears several times: “Heaven Is” or “Living It Up,” with their irresistible jazz noir mannerisms; “Fly High,” and that exultant boom bap perfume that harks back to the days of “Reasonable Doubt”; “Time Goes,” with Mac Miller, full of unrecognisable 80s reminiscences; or “Do It For The Green,” a fascinating funeral ballad that is among the best things he has ever recorded. He is accompanied this time out by his classic smoking buddies (Curren$y or Smoke DZA), as well as new stars in the firmament (Mac Miller, Mickey Rocks, from The Cool Kids, or Stalley), and veterans who need no introduction (Murs, although in this case with a song that already appeared in his last album). They are all players in a brief, concise selection, eleven songs, just over half an hour, where Ski Beatz’s sound once again oozes personality.