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"Electric Laser" came out in 2008, and was the second official album by the underground LA Hip Hop trio, Giant Panda. Consisting of members, Newman, Maanumental, Chikaramanga, the group bring something completely original to the Hip Hop world as they take an alternative route on the whole West Coast scene, and differ from the abudence of Gangsta Rap to bring in a little something which you would associate more with Jurassic 5, The Pharcyde or Dilated Peoples with fresh, funky, underground Hip Hop. What is so special about these is that Chikaramanga, of the group, is Japanese, and MCs in his native tongue.
1. "Laser Beam" (Intro)
2. "Justin Case"
To introduce you to their music, we have a track which brings out the highest standard of their work from the start. It establishes what they are about from the opener, and indicates that we are in for something completely original with hyped production and lively raps. The first musical track also gets a full Japanese verse, and is sure to take you back in the way the MC juxtaposes his own language with Japanese, and maintaining the flow.
3. "Ready To Fly"
The robotic, electronic echos from the start of the one take you back to early Afrika Bambaataa (or even earlier with Parliament Funkadelic), and from here, they take it all the way and get live with som naturally funky rhymes as Newman (who seems to lead the trio) with the bouncey 'w'-rich lines.
4. "Speakers Pop"
This was the first that I heard from the group, and it motivated me to find out more about them as they come of with a banger of a track, and it seemingly comes out out of nowhere (as I had no prior knowledge of their existence). It is just straight feel-good Hip Hop, in which they don't hold back even to a minor degree with craxy flows on a heavy beat.
You are really forced to take notice from this one, although it begins as a pretty typical one from them (but with a much lower energy level) you find yourself being dragged in by the way that Newman's raps go as he seems to suddenly find inspiration to challenge himself and go for a rap which has him flowing for nearly two full minutes with just words beginning with 't'. It shows great lyricism from him, and takes you to a time where the words where a lot more meaningful.
6. "Laser Ray"
The funky synth comes through on this one, and it brings things back to the sounds which intially excited me about them as you get some real underground work, which reminds me of the type of thing we got with Mos Def and Talib Kweli as Black Star and the general liveliness of it all. It just has them going at things hard and not caring where they go with it.
7. "Precise Calculator"
Had this been the first track I heard from them, I would have been completely lost. This one begins (following a chorus) with some Japanese raps, and you can tell (despite an obvious language barrier) that Chikaramanga is on the same level as the other two MCs as he raps with such confidence, and is able to easily break down the J-Hop to do it al in English two (but with a thick accent).
8. "Same Old S**t"
Chikaramanga begins this onewith a short introduction with him speaking in English, but with a destinctive voice ashe comes with avery bouncey flow, and put emphasis on irregular parts of his words. After this start, you get a very bright track from them with lots of fresh, up-lifting sounds going on, and it gets them doing something ver representative of the whole album.
The beats in this one are much closer to the general mainstream rap of today, but it is still clearly very unique to them in the way they come up with some funky compostions to unite all music lovers. It gets them just killing it, and showing great consistency in how they maintain such a high quality of raps and rhymes, and are able to change things up with each track.
This is a very interesting one from the group, and track designed how far from the norm they are as they speak on homophobia, and relate it to the experience they (or at least Newman) has gone through in the past when it came to his relationship with his father, and how it fell apart once he found out his true sexuality. They keep the beats fresh, and don't dwell on the sadness of the issue.
11. "Let It Go"
They seems to slow things down (which would have been expected for the tune just before it) it makes you see a different side to them as they are forced to alter their ways in order to capture the feel of the production, and the way that has them on shaky jingles takes you to earlier times too. The throwbacks also come in the form of tag team flows.
12. "Do The Robot In Cyberspace"
This one has them get into a different side of their music. Although the majority of the high-quality beats which they make hint on this, they never just let go and allow themselves to do a fully-blow dance cut in order to bring out the inner B-Boys within them. They do it all on some breakbeat, and take you back to the eighties with all the throwback dance moves they call out.
13. "Speakers Funk"
To end things off, they are sure not to lower the quality to any degree as they keep things gogin, and they work off the hype of the tune which came just before it with a track which focuses on them just feeling the music, and getting right into it with their approach to the mic(rophone), and the content centering-in on the funky rhythms we encounter.
This is a killer album, and you that you have to check, I went into this blindly (having onyl heard a single tune from them) so the whoel Japanese thing tok me by surprise at first, but once you get into it, these no way that you can shun it as they take you back to the Golden Age of Hip Hop, and show that you are still able to advance things without having to put the lyrics in a lesser position.
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 Laser Beam (Scotty's Theme)
2 Justin Case
3 Ready To Fly
4 Speakers Pop
6 Laser Ray
7 Precise Calculator
8 Same Old Shit
11 Let It Go
12 Do The Robot In Cyberspace
13 Speakers Funk