By Alex P80 Parks
The Chicago-based producer has a passion for creating beats a bit outside of the norm. Beginning his career under the moniker Earmint back in the early 2000’s and then officially entering the scene back in 2015 with his Raw Exotic EP, Spectacular Diagnostics has a way of uncovering rare and unique samples. With his latest offering, Raw Studies, the beats are original and unorthodox, yet melodic and rhythmically fulfilling. Spec recruits all the hitters for this project, each emcee a force on the current underground revival.
Maybe it was more apparent to me after marinating in his music for awhile, but it seemed as if many of Spectacular Diagnostics’ beats often originated from 2 distinct genres: industrial and jazz. From there the beats would take on new life and blend with other elements, losing sight of genre and just becoming part of the overall track. While that has certainly been done before, there’s a unique character that inhabit his joints. Regardless, I had to inquire about those influences and samples.
Spectacular Diagnostics:“I only use a samples that aren’t readily recognized, lots of Eastern European records from the 60s, 70s, 80s ..I definitely sample jazz, wether it’s foreign jazz or some more known for hats, drums, and little blips of sound, not loops. Industrial? Amusingly enough, yes, I use to be really into late 80s, early 90s industrial while simultaneously listening to hip hop. They both have roots in sampling, which I love.”
DRHH: How did this project with all these cats come about?
SD:”This album originally started out with the intention of being only a few rap guests with mostly instrumentals. It wasn’t working and I completely flipped it. Those early instrumentals were much more electronic and didn’t fit the vibe that the MCs were bringing. Maybe they’ll drop later on their own, even under a different moniker, I’m on the fence about it.”
On “En Garde” feat Estee Nack and Al Divino, Spec brings in a gentle and tranquil loop with resonating bass. The background contrast with the barrage of hard rhymes from Divino and Nack. Midway through Nack’s verse the beats flips into an eerie series of synth loops.
Check it here:
“Palace” feat Grandmilly is a jazz-influenced mellow joint, perfect for the quick, yet smooth flow of the Hempstead emcee GrandMilly. The vibe is laid-back but not sleepy, with chopped piano and sax loops.
“IknowUknow” feat Chris Crack is a bouncing slapper with compressed drums, and plenty of crackling from the sample. This is one of those particularly quirky joints, perfect for Chris Crack to spit his annoyances while telling his woman to “come roll my J’s.”
“Rats” feat Cousin Feo Over a hazy beat with piano loops and plenty of popping static, Feo stays in his lane of straightforward, no bullshit raps. The drums bang on this joint, showing that Spec isn’t merely a loop guy.
“Lawless” feat Rome Streetz is a bleak, jazzy thumper. The loop has a cold, sobering tone, while Rome heats it up with his flow full of gritty street references and distinct wordplay.
Rome comes in:
“I need a fortress, and Porsche’s with four hundred horses.
Fuck taking losses
So wrong corners where it’s lawless
Never trust grimy-ass New Yorkers.
Quick to hawk ya, pull ya bitch, I’m a slick talker.”
The jazzy trumpet, organs and bassline is balanced with some synth effects. This is a banger to stand amongst some of the bigger heaters in recent memory. The bass on this joint is enough to shatter the glass in your whip.
“The death of Billy Bats” feat K.Burns with a notable Goodfellas audio clip to set the stage, K.Burns makes it clear that he ain’t shining any shoes. Burnie spits a focused verse, giving warnings for those who wanna front.
“Far from Holy” feat Ice Lord and Sauce Heist Both emcees bring their slick flows over strings loops, guitar notes and rumbling piano riffs. Ice and Sauce do well unloading the street rhymes here; Sauce bringing his energy and Ice with his more chill demeanor.
“Refinement” shows AnkhleJohn at his usual shit-talking on this joint. This track feels like a cartoon, with AnkhleJohn and his larger-than-life persona over short chopped orchestral loops, canaries tweeting in the background.
Check out the track here:
“Mikta” feat DapZini shows an emerging emcee in the game with some witty and creative references. Dap is definitely a young talent on the rise. DapZini spits in his rhythmic flow:
“Rock salt in the shotty, For anyone try to stop me.
I toss ya body in lava just like Heihachi”
The atmosphere here is primitive with chopped tribal vocals and muffled jungle drums.
On “Palooka” feat Flashius Clayton and Don O the Team Frozen emcees rhyme over a droning chopped female vocal loop, strings and simple piano notes. Both Don and Flash deliver their crisp flows here to perfection, proving yet again to be an imposing duo.
“Guns in the Guitar Case” feat SmooVth Going full Desperado on this track, with his trademark delivery and unmistakeable voice, SmooVth rhymes with ease. Spec Diagnostics lays a single guitar loop and subtle percussion for SmooVth to do his thing and just shine.
“The Sound” feat Sleep Sinatra. Sleep Sinatra is one of those talented emcees who can spit the “Conscious” rhymes without forcing lyrics or trying to be overly profound. Rather humble, he always sounds quite comfortable. Despite the ease in his delivery, Sleep is never uninspired. The futuristic feel of the track, and the quick tempo, paired with the sonar effect, creates an arc to the beat, beginning on earth and eventually leaving the atmosphere. As the beat echoes deep into the cosmos, it repeats slowly in quieter increments until it’s scarcely noticeable.
This project showcases Spectacular Diagnostics’ talent at incorporating so many different elements and samples from varying genres. His beats don’t ever become too repetitive or stale. He finds quirky bits and often flips a beat halfway through a track, changing a whole mood in the process.
An excellent producer project, Raw Studies allows all the top underground emcees to really shine over original and unique beats. This is certainly one of the best compilation albums of the year, bringing high quality beats with the underground’s finest lyricists.
cop the album here: