I think I like this album for all the reasons I’m not supposed to.
According to hip-hop experts and jazz afficiondos, the “vs” in Antipop vs. Matthew Shipp is supposed to mean something.
It’s supposed to mean that the Antipop Consortium and Shipp are getting up and all over each other’s shit. It’s supposed to mean tension, conflict, a fight.
Instead, Antipop and Matthew Shipp pretty much give and take.
They’re collaborating instead of throwing down, respecting each other’s space instead of fucking things up.
And by most accounts, that’s what’s disappointing.
For a listener who doesn’t know any better — that is, anyone who is neither a hip-hop expert nor a jazz afficiondo; that is, me — it doesn’t really mean much.
If anything, someone who isn’t into neither hip-hop nor jazz (yup, that would be me again) may actually find Antipop vs. Matthew Shipp appealing.
Sure — on close examination, the album does have its share of flaws.
Shipp often sounds like an after-thought when he bumps heads with the rigidity of a hip-hop beat. Drum machines can’t swing, after all.
“Staph” and “A Knot In Your Bop” are pretty much Antipop’s show, with Shipp pounding away in the background.
The pianist’s finest moments happen when Antipop get out of the way — the suitable marriage of heavy chords and heavy beats on “Staph”, the eerie repeated motif of “SVP”, the supercharged be-bop of “Free Hop”.
To their credit, Antipop employs Shipp’s sense of harmony in appropriate ways. An off-kilter piano sample nicely punctuates “Slow Horn”. Shipp and his band weave themselves wonderfully on “Monstro City”, while “Real Is Surreal” is a compelling rhythmic collage.
But despite some awkwardness and its lack of tension, Antipop vs. Matthew Shipp is still a decent album. It’s refreshing to hear hip-hop that doesn’t depend on studio clichés, and it’s nice to hear a jazz free from a slavish devotion to bop and swing.
The album is unshackled by jazz’s usual staidness and hip-hop’s narrow field of content.
Antipop and Shipp may not quite achieve a paradigm shift for their respective genres, but they have produced an enjoyable 40 minutes of listening.