Anyone familiar with Algebra knows that above all else, the local rapper stays true to his roots and Oklahoma ties. His debut disc, 918, was a celebration of his Tulsa ties, and his sophomore release, Scissortail, returns with a different feel and approach but more Oklahoma ties and references.
With roughly three years under his belt since making his debut in 2007, Algebra continues to become even more comfortable in the role of rapper -- and even more prolific as a songwriter.
Algebra described entering the rap game through written poetry and prose in college and had even done some spoken word. In 2007, some friends entered him in a rap battle at NSU as a joke. Surprisingly, he won the entire event, and Algebra was born. Since then, his performances have expanded to Tulsa, and he has continued to build his reputation and notoriety to the point of winning this year's ABoT Music Award in the "Best Hip Hop" category.
This weekend, Algebra expands his catalogue with a release party on Saturday, Sept. 4, for his second CD, Scissortail. This time around, the CD is simultaneously more coherent and diverse. There's a more cohesive feel that comes from working with the same producer on all of the tracks, tying everything together with a common ear and perspective.
The surprise here is that much of the production work and all of the beats are coming from John Moreland who is more commonly known for his punk-rock background and the straight-up Americana-rock of his solo material.
According to Algebra, however, it works well because he tells Moreland what he's looking for and he responds by sending him a cross section of beats, including some experimental ideas.
"All of the tracks are sample heavy, but they cross the spectrum," Algebra said. "It's definitely a more diverse album than I've done in the past -- not just pure hip hop samples, but a lot of different stuff."
Algebra said that the disc has a definite Oklahoma influence, and many of the songs have distinct country undertones to them.
"The title track, 'Scissortail,' is about Oklahoma in general and has a definite country feel," he said. Elsewhere, on "Red Dirt Revival," Algebra might not actually tap into the Red Dirt scene, but he does enlist Fiawna Forte, whose sultry alto adds to the easy flow of the song as he name drops not only a cross-section of Tulsa references, but also a number of the artists he has worked with in town throughout the past year.
Perhaps the irony of Algebra's popularity is the fact that although he is definitely a hip-hop artist, he rarely plays pure hip-hop shows with solely rap acts. Instead, he's indelibly tied to the indie-rock scene, sharing the stage with acts such as Popular Culture, Lizard Police, Scales of Motion and The Red Alert.
In keeping with that, this Saturday night's CD release party is being held at Soundpony, a club that is known as much for being a haven for Tulsa's indie-rock scene as it is for being open to welcoming all types of acts. Even the lineup for the show itself is an interesting cross-section, paring up Algebra's hip-hop show with the indie dance rock of Guardant and noise-rock band The Harvard Meats.
Although it might seem early to drop a new disc of material after releasing a debut disc in February, Algebra said that he's been writing since the first disc was released and booked recording time for this disc months in advance, knowing that he wanted to get it done and released at the end of summer.
Algebra's songwriting and lyrics continue to improve and his rapping skills continue to flourish and become more even-handed and smooth. He's even taking a queue from one of Tulsa's most popular hip-hop artists, PDA, and performing with a live drummer for the release show, enlisting Craig Miracle of Scales of Motion.
Algebra said that between the intimate confines of the club and the live drums versus DJ counterpoint that he's planning for this show, "Things look to get pretty loud. This will definitely be a different show than the Soundpony usually sees."
It may be a step off of the norm for the Soundpony, but it's also not a far cry from the diversity that the club regularly embraces. Between his indie-rock ties, distinct DIY attitude and willingness to step outside of the standard hip-hop paradigm, Algebra continues to make a name for himself in indie-rock circles as well as prove his worth as a true hip-hop artist.
It's just that ability to tie genres and audiences that helped Algebra emerge as this year's "Best Hip Hop" artist at the ABoT awards and makes him a key artist to watch throughout the next year as his audience continues to expand.
This Saturday night's show promises to be a perfect opportunity for those who aren't familiar, to become acquainted with the year's reigning rapper and see how he ties into Tulsa's thriving indie-rock scene.
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