|DJ Haul and Mason - Half Baked Goods|
|Music Disc Reviews Audio CD|
|Written by Paul Lingas|
|Tuesday, 22 February 2005|
DJ Haul and Mason, for those of you who don’t know, are a Southern California-based DJ/mixing duo. Tending to use four turntables (two each), the duo have been making a steady rise throughout not only this side of the country but in other venues as well. Eager to make their mark on an even larger market, Haul and Mason decided, as many do, to release an album. What makes this first effort somewhat unique, though, is that they recorded the entire album not only for release on conventional compact disc, but they also went the extra 15 miles and recorded the entire thing in 5.1 surround sound. Including this the young pair, there are only about 20 hip-hop artists who have cut an album with 5.1 channels.
“The Get Up” begins things well enough and “Oooh, Ahhh” is a lithe, mellow track before things kick back up with “What’s Hip-Hop Without the 1, 2, 3?” featuring Hustle and his lyrical finery. However, besides keeping things under the lid and not breaking out any hardcore beats or riffs, there are a variety of sounds within these tracks that sound too preprogrammed. Haul and Mason remark in the liner notes that they recorded this album in three weeks, and though they do have talent, it unfortunately sounds like they did it in three weeks. Ironically or not, the reason they titled the album Half Baked Goods is because they were so rushed to finish.
Whether it is due to the mixing boards or the sheer lack of production time, often the rhythms feel as though they’re lagging, especially throughout the first half of the album. The somewhat simple arrangements that Haul and Mason employ give the feeling that the album is comprised less of dance music than club atmospherics. “Fa No Dem Ara” finally kicks in some jazzy samples and instrumentation. It also has a bunch of wicked breaks within it, giving it a herky-jerky sort of effect that will either drive you crazy or make you go wild. It’s here where Haul and Mason seem to hit their stride, with effective sampling and mixing that brings in some real instrumentation. In contrast to some of the other tracks which, as previously mentioned, have a synthetic quality to them, this track has an organic heart that pulses not only with the beat but gives a greater sense that there is something going on musically.
Half Baked Goods is presented as a dual-sided disc, with the CD on one side and the DVD-Audio on the other. While the DVD-A side sounds crisper and fuller, it has the (I’m sure unintended) effect of calling attention to some of the gaps in the duo’s approach. What sounds flat and uninspired in stereo is only going to sound even more barren in 5.1. This is not to say that the album is not good, it simply feels a bit rushed and lacking in a certain amount of finesse and bravado. When seeking to utilize six channels of audio, one needs to fill up each of those speakers with significantly intriguing music, not simply spread out four channels over six. This is exemplified with the second to last track, “2 Headz Are Better,” which, while it throws down a heavy beat and bass, always leaves you waiting for the real show to start. Too many of the tracks feel like prologues to something greater waiting in the wings. It is to Haul and Mason’s credit that they give the feeling that there is more to the tracks, but it is disappointing on the occasions that they don’t give the listener what he wants.