Hey guys! In this new, weekly feature on OurStage we’ll be shining a spotlight on one of our own OurStage artists and comparing them to a nationally recognized artist that you might be more familiar with. Each week, we’ll select an artist based on musical characteristics similar to a well known mainstream artist. While highlighting the similarities between said artists, we will also show you what makes each OurStage artist unique and not simply a rip-off of the artist they are being compared to. Our goal with this column is to help you guys find great new music that you might not have heard of or found on the site yet.
For our inaugural post let’s look at North Carolina-based alternative hip hop group BPL, and compare them to the hip hop group The Roots. BPL’s most obvious similarity to The Roots is that they are a “hip hop band”. The band packs a punch with seven members, including two saxophone players and a trumpet player . Much like The Roots, BPL mixes influence from soul, funk and jazz, and meshes that all together with a 90s hip hop flavor. Performing using all live instruments, their sound is much more organic and natural sounding than most synth driven hip hop you will hear on the radio today—you won’t find any Autotune on these tracks. And like The Roots, these guys are talented instrumentalists. It’s one thing to sound good in the studio, but BPL brings it live with the energy and tightness of any of the best touring acts today. Check out their live video for “The Answer” below.
Now, you’re probably thinking, “Well, what makes BPL different from a group like The Roots.” BPL sets themselves apart from the pack with their lyrics and arrangements. While The Roots’ lyrics typically deal with socially conscious and political themes, BPL’s lyrical themes are far more varied. This is clearly evidenced on their track “Do You Remember?”, a song about a night of partying and trying to remember what happened the day after. While this sounds somewhat juvenile at first, BPL’s fantastic MCs have the ability to tell a detailed story with their lyrics that keeps you enthralled. MCs Peter Schaffer and Michael Martin have the ability to paint a picture with their words much like rappers Eminem or Nas do; their use of specific details and clearly enunciated rhymes make it very easy to mentally visualize the story they are telling in their lyrics.
BPL continues to defy mainstream conventions with their lengthy and complex arrangements, clearly demonstrated on their epic, eight and half minute track “Winter”. This is a track that is as much of a jazz tune as it is a hip hop song. The track begins with a slow and somber piano melody, and with an opening line like “I feel like Coltrane in a land of Kenny G’s,” you can tell these guys know their jazz. About halfway through the song, the rapping stops and the song breaks down into almost a free form jazz jam with the instrumentalists improvising, until ultimately building up to the most energetic verse of the song, where Peter Schaffer raps in double time. It is a truly striking song and unlike anything you’ll hear on the average hip-hop radio station.
BPL’s debut album Higher is out now on NuSouth Entertainment