Chemical Brothers feat. Q-Tip — “Galvanize”

Released: 1.17.05

Peak: Did not chart

Welcome to Q-Tip’s lost decade. His 1999 solo bow, Amplified, re-introduced an MC not just resigned to hip-hop’s new glossy pop reality, but full-on ready to embody it; yet his proposed follow-up, Kamaal the Abstract, hedged its bets. After kindly suits sidelined that mess (an ambitious mess, sure, but so’s John Boehner), Tip spent the better part of the 00s elbowing his way back into the game. His 2008 lite jazz-rap comeback, The Renaissance, was the retreat-to-form of a guy whose moment had passed — not the moment of “conscious rap,” which Tribe had outlasted anyway, but the moment when major labels would invest in non-blockbuster rap albums.

In the dead center of that hiatus, Tip poked his head up to collaborate with a duo whose moment would seem to have passed even more definitively than his own. Tom Rowlands and Ed Simons personified the mass-bludgeoning club-funk of Big Beat as definitively as anyone this side of Fatboy Slim, yet they soldiered bravely into an inhospitable decade, establishing their un-pop bona fides with the acid dissolution of Come With Us, as abstract in its way as Q-Tip’s jazzy low-end. It was apropos of nothing much at all, then, when the Brothers set aside their usual rockish taste in collaborators to let a real MC on their mic.

Just as Tip twists commonplace exhortations into originality (“Put apprehension on the back burner”) Rowlands and Simons syncopate an unremarkable beat into a frenzy with a flurry of sharp handclaps. And with the West fretful over having seen its own blocks rocked, completing an anticipatory “the time has come to” with a robotic “push the button” made for a cheeky threat–especially with the Moroccan strings, sampled from Najat Aatabou’s “Hadi Kedba Bayna” (“Just Tell Me the Truth”), repeatedly gathering into a three note punch. Not as galvanic as “Block Rockin’ Beats,” maybe. But “Galvanize,” and not “Block Rockin’ Beats,” is the jam that leads their 2008 best-of Brotherhood for a good reason — even if that reason is to show that the Chemical Brothers haven’t been in steady decline. Because, you know, they haven’t.

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