Hua Hsu

Race Records

Okada Taxi
Wise Retrogression (Dusty Groove)The solo project of composer and producer Takashi Okada, this imaginative disc is the latest in a string of brilliant discs from Japan fixated on the jazzy possibilities of broken-beat and electronic jazz. With help from folks like Mark de Clive-Lowe and Kim Hill, this uplifting debut is all soul.

Race Records

Afrika Bambaataa
Dark Matter Moving at the Speed of Light (Tommy Boy)
The legendary hip-hop pioneer traveled around the world to record his most recent treatise on the state of the art. From Baltimore house to British electro—and featuring collaborations with TC Islam and Gary Numan—Bam hasn’t sounded this inspired in years.

Race Records

The Isley Brothers
Taken to the Next Phase / Columbia
One cowers at how many babies were probably made to the criminally smooth sounds of the Isley Brothers. Here, a talented generation of new jacks like Questlove, Mos Def, Raphael Saadiq and dancehall wunderkind Lenky return the favor, re-imagining classic Isley hits with a modern-day swing.

Race Records

Ollabelle
Ollabelle (Sony)

Shortly after 9/11, this crew of concerned New Yorkers wandered from their respective sounds (punk, jazz, pop) and found a common purpose in American Roots music. The sextet’s debut is a delightful, heartening blend of blues, gospel, bluegrass and country that rereads early Americana as a beautiful and inclusive, if faraway, place.

Race Records


Vijay Iyer and Mike Ladd
In What Language? (Pi)

Last April, pianist Iyer and poet/rapper Ladd teamed for this one-off show examining lives lost in transit. Set amidst the hustle and bustle of the international airport, Iyer’s fiery playing and Ladd’s words slyly indicted the cold paranoia of our post-9/11 era without accusing it directly.

Race Records

David Banner
Mississippi (SRC/Universal)
The allure in David Banner’s brash, mouth-of-the-South shtick is that he’s not sure he’s got all the answers himself. For every hedonistic “Like a Pimp” there’s a thoughtful, God-fearing-but-loving “Cadillac on 22’s,” and the balance makes this one of the most touching, complex rap records of the year.

The British, Invaded

Hua Hsu reviews Vivek Bald’s music documentary chronicling the rise of England’s “Asian underground” amidst racial turmoil.

Ethnic Media Grows Up

Will increasing mainstream attention alter the ethnic media landscape?