Beats Noir

With last year's 13 Tracks From the Dark Side of the Beat, Beats Noir deftly proved it could use hip-hop as a framework to build on while adding in jazz elements to augment the groove. Started by the classically trained Paul Mullikin, who serves as the group's MC and also has a background in jazz and hip-hop, and local rocker J.T. Nolan, the act, which also features bassist Matt Skellenger and drummer Dave Miller, expands on that initial approach on Dark Side's followup, Where the Sun Goes Down. The title track and cuts like "Going Nowhere" both use string-quartet samples, which work well with the beats; elsewhere, the band turns Cream's "White Room" into a thick groove that Mullikin raps over. Although these guys borrow from many musical sources, they manage to streamline things quite nicely, seamlessly integrating the disparate elements.

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