Well, Tiger Speak has become even jazzier. After first hearing their self-titled EP almost two years ago, I had much difficulty naming a mainstream characterization of their sound. Calling it jazz-influenced hip hop was understating the jazz but at the same time Ryan Easter’s rapping provided an essential element to their music and overall vibe. The only description that seemed fair was a constant change-up from jazz to rap – what I called transportation from a 60’s jazz club to a contemporary rap venue (when speaking of their live performance). On the spectrum of straight jazz to straight rap I had them at about JAZZ ———-here———————RAP. This new live album puts them about JAZZ —— here ————————-RAP. Of course this is a silly and arbitrary way of getting my point across but I think it gets my point across. I now choose to refer to their music as Spoken Jazz – a whole lotta sexy jazz mixed with some verbose spoken word poetry.
Ryan Easter is quite the MC. Sometimes he talks, sometimes he spits trap-style, other times he raps as fast as he can, but regardless of the technique he’s delivering, he gets every single damn word he’s trying to say into each line and every verse. He’s like the MF Doom who refuses to spill his words into the next bar. Easter is the out-of-breath poet trying to keep up with the speedy sound his musical counterparts partake in.
Tiger Speak could successfully survive as a jazz orchestra and at times they create a sound that doesn’t really sound hip-hoppy at all. But I think that’s what makes them so cool. They know how to keep a bit quiet, laying down jazz club background sounds while the MC controls the mic. They also know how to completely let loose and belt a musical interlude that will make you forget you are listening to 2014 rap…and then Easter comes screeching in while the jazzsters turn down their stereo. Then they take turns showing each other their skills. It’s teamwork at work.