The Roots have always shared their limelight with other members and affiliates. Scratch is the vocal turntablist of the group that has blown the minds (and ears) of Roots fans for the last couple of albums, and especially live. Not to get confused with Rahzel (The Godfather Of Noyze) who does more sound effects, everything a DJ can do with a turntable, Scratch duplicate with his mouth.
On Ropeadope Records, Scratch has produced and released the first ever total beatbox album. With every song produced by Scratch (except for one co-produced by 88-Keys), "The Embodiment of Instrumentation" has a very organic feel to it since 95% of the album is done vocally. Live instruments are only played on a couple of songs and there is not one actual sample. All turntable sounds and beats are done by Scratch's mouth! While some could easily dismiss this as a novelty record, Scratch is helped by both underground and some more well-known Philly emcees and artists. Guests range from Jill Scott, Bilal, Sherif Davis, Black Thought, Malik B, Dice Raw to more unknown underground emcees like Schoolz Of Thought (Scratch's old group) and Flo Brown.
The majority of the album is composed of hardcore hip-hop songs that range from incredible to decent. "You Know The Rules" (with Black Thought, Malik B, and MARS Co-op) is one of the strongest tracks and deserves a video. Malik B especially adds a wild flow to the song. "That's What We Talkin' About" (featuring Dice Raw, Calente, & EST) not only has an instantly attention-grabbing beat but a very dope live horn melody. Dice Raw kicks the track off with an intense energy that hasn't been heard since his early Roots collaborations. Other satisfying tracks include 88-Keys co-produced "Sumthin' That U Missin" and "World Iz.." featuring Schools Of Thought. The only filler tracks are "We Got What U Want" and "Looking 4 The Hot Shit," both featuring Schoolz Of Thought. Most of the emcees do excellent jobs because they sound extremely hungry on the mic but the true gem of the song is Scratch. His beats and vocal turntablism are not only exciting but very entertaining.
The diversity and dope beats are driving forces behind this album. While most of it is hardcore underground hip-hop, other songs have different styles which range from spoken word to instrumental jazz to dub reggae. "Breath Of Fresh Air" is a jazz instrumental that is short and sweet. The chemistry between Sherif Davis and Scratch is obvious. Bilal rocks the short but soulful "Square One" with the help of a wild kazoo melody. Jill Scott just does the very funny and creative background melody of a skipping record on a radio show in the interlude "The Morning After." The reggae song "People Getting Rich" is a little too long and could get annoying because of Stamma's chunky and somewhat hard to decipher vocals. "3 Bar Stools Away" (featuring Rich Medina & Yamin All World) is an interesting spoken-word about meeting a woman in a bar. It is refreshing because it is not sexist at all while keeping a mack-out vibe. One of the most surprising non-hop-hop tracks is "What's Happ'n" with Floetry. Out of the 2 spoken-word songs, this one is superior. It is not only heartfelt but very romantic while being grounded in reality. It is sexy while maintaining a classy vibe. Floetry's lyrics are very strong but have a soft quality that displays her vulnerability. I love how the beat slows down towards the end along with Floetry's emotional delivery. By being diverse, Scratch created an album that not only flows well but has a very high replay value.
Overall, "The Embodiment of Instrumentation" is somewhat of a novelty record but it is filled with diversity and creativity. It is evident that Scratch gave 100% to each song. Every time I listen to this album, I cannot believe that almost every sound came from Scratch's mouth. While some sounds are more vocally-blatant than others, Scratch keeps the entire album exciting through creative rhythms and choosing his guests wisely. While Rahzel's album had his rapping over some real samples with well-known guests, Scratch produced a surprisingly incredible album that is made from vocal-driven beats and underground emcees. It is both creative and exciting and will be hard to top.