Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Review: Alex Lee's "Headphone Heroes EP"

She's going by her government name these days, but not a whole lot else has changed for Alex Lee on her latest release, the EP “Headphone Heroes.”

Blessed with fly looks, style and vocals that suggest the butter smoothness of Ladybug Mecca mixed with the gritty wordplay of Bahamadia, the MC/singer formerly known as A.Lee is an 831 original, even if she now resides in the Yay Area. On her latest set, the Seaside-native explores every angle of her talent — crafty lyricism, jazzy, harmonic vocals, and confident charisma — to reveal a tad more about the gifted hip-hop soul artist.

“Headphone Heroes” picks up where her first effort, “The Channel,” left off. Easy vibes percolate through the lead track, “Doin' It,” produced by London beatsmith Majhik. On this foreign exchange collaboration, freaked through the magic of MySpace, Lee melts into the groove with silly but sultry stream of consciousness rhymes, shouting out her UK brethren and her daddy with one flip of the tongue.

Revealing her girly-girl side on “I Just Wanna Dance,” she flirts innocently while laying out what she wants, reassuring her suitor “Ain't no need to worry, I ain't a goldigger/but I'll dance to it, old school to Jigga.”

The beats, provided by her elementary school friend Jon "B.B." Bomarito, Vermont-based producer S.K. and the production duo Sonica, are airy and elegant, befitting Lee's smoothed-out soul.

Lee utilizes her singing voice to ample effect, pulling melodies out of thin air and fitting them into each orchestration lock tight. Lee's skill lies in her seeming effortlessness on the mic. She's so at ease that the listener is lulled into a trance while Lee provides the theme music to the perfect quiet storm.

When she does bring the thunder, it erupts into a dance floor banger “Bam! Boom!” Sounding like a rhyme super-hero, Lee matches the comic book title with super woman rhymes: “They ain't fuckin with me/but oh well, to hell with it/ you can't tell I'm the best female to spit it/but the gender ain't an issue/blessed like ahh-choo, so I need a tissue.”

The definitive jam, “CaliSoul,” takes the theme music from your favorite Dockers commercial and transforms it into a love letter to the Golden State. Celebrating medicinal marijuana, undocumented Mexican laborers and Mac Dre slappin' in the trunk, Lee does her home state proud.

At a trim 9-tracks, “Headphone Heroes” is a sample of the funk Lee has to offer. Sadly missing is the track “Hotter” that appeared in the recent season finale of “America's Top Model.”

Also absent is any real introspective music that might reveal more of Lee's personality, but that's just nit picking. Ultimately, Alex Lee lives up to her super hero moniker. With any luck, “Headphone Heroes” just might save hip-hop music from its stale self.

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