From the opening track of the album “Thoughtwork” by Fraction & Finsta you know you are listening to an outstanding piece of work. In order to better understand this, you have to position yourself at the time this album came out…Yes, now!! Ever hear anybody still make boom bap albums this classic sounding today? I doubt it. Hence I repeat the statement: “In order to better understand this, you have to position yourself at the time this album came out.” Checkout the current mass of mumble rappers and hyper futuristic beats, to appreciate that we have an entirely different beast in our hands here. Seriously. I can play this anywhere and get lost in profound thinking and be in awe of life. This is a great soundtrack to those still living hip hop. There are many gems out there that I may have overlooked over the years, but this won’t be one of them.
“Thoughtwork” is a collaborative album from veteran Canadian emcee and producer Dj Fraction, and Brooklyn, New York/Raleigh, North Carolina based emcee and producer Dj Finsta (of famed New York rap duo Finsta Bundy). A sprawling instrumental and lyrical masterpiece, the album plays out like intimate journey through an endless urban cityscape of alley-ways, backstreets, glitzy skylines. Along the way, various narratives and sound motifs pop up along the way, serving to enhance the unique, mysterious spell that “Thoughtwork” casts on its listeners, or at least those that are picking up the vibe.
That vibe can be described in many ways: soulful, smooth, dark, edgy etc. Propelled forward by a steady undercurrent of mid-tempo hip-hop beats, one moment you will find yourself bobbing your head to the music, and the next you’ll find yourself transfixed by the all-encompassing, spiritual mood. “Do Your Thing”, never fails to send chills up my spine, and sets the tone for the entire album.
It is almost impossible not to bob your head to this song. And like most tracks on the album, there is a dark undercurrent to the hip-hop beats that is quite engaging and demands attention. The ongoing textures to the track, like the repeating bassline, and the female choral sample, add a sense of drama to the song. Acting like a gateway the track invites the listener into the world that is “Thoughtwork”. It’s intense.
“Working On It” does a masterful job of merging the two disparate ideas of combining a sweet electric piano with a hard hip-hop beat to create an infectiously head-bobbing track. “The Process” is about boom bap perfection, it ensures that each sound molecule and beat vibration is set to the same beautiful frequency.
And then that aching beauty is saturated with the flavors of night. Too many electronic-based Dj Producers let everything do the work for them, they set their machines on overdrive, and operate it as such. Fraction & Finsta take beats, samples and sounds – they meld, cut and paste. Adding twists, turns, tension and release.
Even when a beat is perpetually repetitive, like “Engine In My Pen”, it is never soulless or robotic, because Fraction & Finsta are masters at beautiful collages. The sounds on tracks like “In The City (feat. Finsta)” and “For You” are simultaneously old school excitement, something approaching the here and now, and the very future.
Listening to “When The Tide Turns”, “Pushing Verses” (feat. Finsta) and “Put In Time” (feat. Finsta), I’m struck by how fearless it is. To believe there could actually be a mass market for something this beautiful and challenging. This album is the sound of the future constructed from the past.
The production is uniformly excellent as the album closes with the tracks “That Ain’t Me” (produced by Mr. Walt of Da Beatminerz) and “Trenches Of The Mind” (feat. Rob Specks). “Thoughtwork” should be considered mandatory listening for all youngsters out there who are just getting into Hip-hop. This is the sound that was born from one of the best eras for the genre, and authentically worked by Fraction & Finsta in 2018.