“Brooklynite by way of Richmond, Dr. Delay started mining beats back in 1994. He’s now a gifted DJ, part of Soul Strut’s elite and a lethal mainstay down at the Funk Weapons armory. Delay moves crowds by specializing in not specializing. A collector in the vein of Andy Votel and a DJ akin to /rupture (if either had more of a B-Boy stance), his alternate alias Tom Thumz is also down with folks like Fugazi and Pat Martino, but still breathes for that old boom-bap.
An occasional producer, Delay’s catalog includes a few 12” EPs, “The Limitations” and “Rule of Thumb,” a compilation credit and a number of revered mixes. Medium: Rare and second installment Medium: Rare II/Well Done focused on unheralded true-schoolers like Lord Finesse and obscurities like Fila Fresh Crew. His crowning moment to date is a subliminal remix of Nas’ blaze anthem (with AZ at his premature peak) “Life’s a Bitch.” Another mix, “Psycrunk,” was one of last year’s shrillest DJ turns, weaving psych and crunk in a way that some envisioned for The Outsider if it had ditched the hyphy shit. Delay’s latest, Rajaz Meter, veers across the pond, trading classic hip hop for Arabic funk, further flexing his vast digging erudition.
An individually-numbered, limited run of 250 (I got 230), Rajaz beholds 31 meticulously-presented lost jewels. Delay’s also Funk Weapons’ Art Director and it shows in the detail of the cover design’s screen-print. The sleeve houses an enlightening insert explaining that the rajaz meter of the Bedouins caravan song – the Huda, sung on desert treks – corresponded with the rhythm of the camel’s stride. It’s the prototype of all Arabic meters.
Delay lights the torch with Baris Manco’s “Donence,” and the Middle East/West dichotomy is set by one voice instructing “Turkish music, listen” and another letting everybody know this is straight out of “Brooklyn fucking New York.” In the two-slot is the first Tinariwen track, a band that originated from Gadhafi’s Tuareg rebel camps of Libya and Algeria, probably the first of their ilk to employ electric guitars. A loping bassline steers the reggae-tinged “Aldhechen Manin,” one of the band’s many desert anthems for the disenfranchised. Most of Delay’s other selections from similar progenitors of the trade, like Turkey’s Bunalimar and Ethiopia’s Swinging Addis, are just as consistently entrancing.
A few strike even harder. “Always In My Heart” by Lebanon’s Elias Rahbani entices with flute, lulls with lute and then takes us higher with a sashaying keyboard lead. The inclusion of The Devil’s Anvil, whose only record Hard Rock From The Middle East hit shelves the day the 1967 Arab-Israeli War broke, is another high-water mark. Other choice picks include Edip Akbayram, Selda – whose towering voice is nothing short of a revelation – and The Cairo Jazz Band’s closing onslaught of swing “Cleopatra.” In terms of idiosyncrasy, Erkin Koray’s “Cemalim” sounds like it could be a Turkish version of Creedence’s “Who’ll Stop The Rain.”
Rajaz Meter is a 52-minute medley of taut groove and mysterious rhythm. Delay’s most obvious asset is taste, but his d(ecks)terity, tablism touches and mixtape-requisite self-promotion keep it moving briskly. Above all, he proves that a music’s medium can be as essential as the music itself.”
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