Twice the First Mind (single) © 2017
Security (single) © 2014
Things That Go Bump in the Dark
With "Thing That Go Bump in the Dark" , the mysterious ISWHAT?! joins the pantheon of pioneers like Duddley Perkins, Georgia Ann Muldrow, Build An Ark, and Madlib. Like these others, Napoleon Maddox and Jack Walker are jazz musicians who have continued to look for what makes the street swing to create a new music a new sound at the crossroads of golden age hip hop “Hands Up,” “Good Fight”), spiritual jazz , and cosmic soul . “Things That Go Bump in the Dark” thus leans on the past, sometimes with subtle winks to its influences to better propel itself into the future, but Napoleon also doesn’t hesitate to reference the films of Luis Buñuel, the paintings of Salvador Dali, and a novel by Dave Eggers as sources of direct inspiration. In addition to knowing how to rap, sing, beatbox, and make futuristic beats, Napoleon Maddox is also an incredible story-teller/writer, with a pen as sharp and versatile as a Saul Williams or a Mos Def. His somber stories can also often be interpreted as metaphors for the rap game, or for humanity in its broad sense – where each of us must struggle daily against our base instincts so that brother does not turn on brother. Or to quote a proverb: so that man should be more than a wolf for man.
"Big Appetite" is more than a collection of delicious audio treats. It's a diary ... a chronicle of overconsumption ... real cautionary tales about lust, desire, greed and hunger. "Big Appetite" explores the possibility of what happens to many people when a basic human need is not met ... LOVE. It also poses the question ... "what's eating you?" ... getting to the root of decadent behavior.
This release is as effective as a good dinner menu for several reasons: The songs offer a selection for your mental and physical well being ... (ie. they make you think and dance). The metaphors are real and tangible like great ingredients you can taste with every beat. The melodies, basslines, beats and rhymes are all fresh, as if they were plucked from the vine and fed directly into your earholes. Nothing on this release is overcooked ...
The Life We Chose
Don't adjust the speakers. That is the legendary riff to Led Zeppelin's "Kashmir" skronking on a tenor saxophone underneath the spitfire rhymes of Napoleon Maddox. And the old man getting the led out on the horn who looks one part Henry Threadgill and one part Grady Wilson is Jack Walker--a little known jazz sage from Lincoln Heights (a section of Cincinnati best known as the original stomping ground of the Isley Brothers). Together the unlikely pairing form ISWHAT?!, the groundbreaking hip-hop duo from Cincinnati. Busting out of Midwest with their 2004 debut, You Figure It Out, on HYENA Records, Maddox and Walker's music was greeted by declarations like: "ISWHAT?! are going to rescue hip-hop. The trio are part of a movement that is promising to bring originality back to underground beats." (STYLUS) and "They're all about what's happenin' that a lot of people ain't even hip to yet." (Rahzel/The Roots). On August 29, 2006! , ISWHAT?! returned to match the level of such lofty praise with their highly-anticipated follow-up, The Life We Chose. While the core of ISWHAT?!'s sound is based on Maddox's human beatbox rhythms and Walker's sharp, incendiary horn lines, this time around they build upon their ideas with help from a vast cadre of friends and special guests, including Hamid Drake, Piakhan, Animal Crackers, Claire Daily, Ill-Poetic, Fatal Prose, and the late great Roy Campbell Jr..
Iswhat?! - The Life We Chose | Listen for free at bop.fm
You Figure It Out...
Forsaking the usual hip-hop standbys (drum programming, samples, constant mic checks), the Cincinnati hip-hop trio Iswhat?! debuted with a challenging record -- beginning with the title but extending to the entire set. A complex, difficult album, You Figure It Out. . . . is much more musical than lyrical, a fiery fusion of Matthew Anderson's strong, dexterous work on upright bass; Jack Walker's fluid explosiveness on reeds; and the human beatboxing of Napoleon. Napoleon's speedy rapping, closer in effect to a live poetry slam than usual in hip-hop, is difficult to decipher but offers much to listeners willing to devote the time to message tracks like "Parachutes" and "Can't Get In." Anderson's prime influence comes out in a pair of late-period reworkings of Charles Mingus' material: "Fables of Faubus" and "Trust." Surprisingly, for a first record Iswhat?! was able to get some outstanding collaborations, including Cincinnati's own John Doe (from 1200 Hobos) on scratches, avant-garde jazz luminary Hamid Drake on drums for three tracks, and rap theorist DJ Spooky on a remix of "Parachutes" (also found on his own remix album, Dubtometry). A bold and refreshing first effort, You Figure It Out. . . . is often frustrating but often stunning. (review by John Bush at allmusic.com)