Seattle's Boom Bap Project belongs to the sizable contingent of underground hip-hop groups for whom the past is a shining ideal to aspire to, and current trends and fads are plagues to be avoided or disparaged at all costs. Purists to the core, the Boom Bap rappers are affable overgrown rap Boy Scouts bucking for merit badges for preservation of hip-hop culture and old-school party-rocking ethics. Such masculine, retro-minded traditionalism can be staid and limiting, but when it's done with this much chemistry and infectious enthusiasm, it proves hard to resist.
One of a handful of savvy signings designed to turn Rhymesayers into a preeminent national hip-hop force, Boom Bap Project sticks to the script early on Reprogram, a winning debut that opts for hard, minimalist beats and aggressive rhymes tossed effortlessly back and forth between the group's two musically complementary—and self-complimentary—MCs. But the sonic and lyrical palette starts to expand with the fourth track, "Wyle Out," which combines woozy, playful horns and percolating synths with the joyous wordplay of Gift Of Gab, whose magnetic personality positively alters the DNA of any track he guests on. The same is true of his Quannum brethren Lifesavas, who add frenetic, razor-sharp wordplay and a jolt of adrenaline to the cheesy electric guitar and retro '80s head-banging of "Ammunition." Like proud products of rap's reverent True School, Boom Bap gives the DJ some on "The Backbone Of Hip-Hop," deftly showcasing the mastery of Triple Threat's Vin Roc while paying homage to him and his turntables-manipulating comrades with their lyrics. That track immediately follows another standout, "Cut Down Ya Options," as the boys trade rhymes with Dilated Peoples' Rakaa Iriscience over propulsive drums, soaring strings, and savvy scratching. Iriscience understandably embraces Boom Bap as creative allies, but it might be wise to view them as competition as well, since on their fine debut, Boom Bap Project doesn't just follow Dilated Peoples' creative blueprint, it improves on it.