ELIGH - Enigma
By the early 2000's, the Living Legends were the archetypical indie hip-hop band. They were highly revered in the backpackers international underground, where they fully deserved their name. In the Wu-Tang Clan way, this collective was made of various subgroups and solo artists, and people from countries as far as Japan and the Netherlands were affiliated to them. Thanks to such a network, their aura was global; and they reached a high standing without any help from major labels.
However, contrary to some peers from the West Coast Underground scene, the Legends were not the most innovative rappers ever. They had great tracks, but scattered and lost in too prolific a discography. It was live, actually, in concerts, that their talent was the most obvious. Eligh Nachowitz, though, stood out from his colleagues. The MC and beatmaker, one of the band's two White men, was the least conventional of all. His greatness had already been visible on late 90's solo albums like As They Pass and Gas Dreams, but it was in the other decade that he would confirm his originality, with Poltergeist, and the smooth and jazzy Enigma.
Enigma was outstanding. It had no banger, though; it had no "Funk", "The Mountain", or "Ancient Grandfather", some of the catchiest tracks on the previous record. Eligh was even barely rapping, a large part of the album being instrumental, a bit like his Gandalf’s Beat Machine series. But there was a strong link with Poltergeist, and this one was Robert Miranda. An occasional contributor on the previous album, this musician assisted Eligh more systematically, now. Supported by voice samples, a synthesizer and a few other instruments, his jazz guitar helped moving Eligh's hip-hop to a darker, smoother and dreamlike style.
Enigma had no equivalent, the experiments of French-Irish beatmaker Doctor L, released ten years before, being maybe the only music comparable to Eligh's. The sumptuous "Life Dance", sung by folk singer Jo Wilkinson (Eligh's mother), the weird "Why?", the smart Leonard Cohen's sample on "Who Else", the splendid "Phil" – well, actually, absolutely all tracks – were both subtle and appealing. And such subtlety and appeal were new to hip-hop, they only belonged to Eligh.
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