Sa-Ra – The Hollywood Recordings [Review]


Sa-Ra (or Sa-Ra Creative Partners) is a Hip-Hop/R&B group based out of LA. I really never heard any of Sa-Ra’s music (Their name is pronounced “Sah-Rah” by the way), but I think I read something about them in XXL or King magazine once. Even though they are relatively unknown, they seem to have some industry buzz (I recently started seeing ads for their new album). The members & founders (Om’Mas Keith, Shafiq Husayn & Taz Arnold) formed in the late 90’s from a trio of industry producers, musicians, and executives who had diligently worked in a multitude of high-profile music productions and business ventures prior to the group’s inception. They’d previously been signed to Kanye West’s GOOD Music label, where they planned to release their debut full-length LP, reportedly entitled Black Fuzz. That deal fell through and since then they have signed a deal with independent label Babygrande. If I had to describe their sound, I guess I could say it this way: vintage sound with Hip-Hop and R&B inspiration, add in some Parliament, a pinch of Neptunes, maybe a dash of Andre 3000 among others things. Even after saying all that, it still doesn’t fully describe their sound. We hear a lot of their distinct music on their full length debut, The Hollywood Recordings.

To say Sa-Ra’s sound is different is an understatement. I wouldn’t say I never heard anything like it, it just not what I used to hearing lately. The intro to the album, “Seagulls”, sounds as if it could be taken from a neo-soul act like Musiq or Dwele. Not bad, but I guess I expected something more. “Hey Love” is a laid back love song that not you average “Oh baby, I wanna sex you” type. If you like Andre 3000’s “Prototype”, you probably like this one (it has that Earth, Wind & Fire feel too). Up next, “Glorious”, isn’t as strong as it predecessor, but you can tolerate it as background music. It doesn’t grab you, but it’s not terrible. “So Special”, features singer Rozzi Daime who can delivers a good performance as lead. The song is average but not my cup of tea; it sounds too Brand New Heavies for me. Rozzi Daime also shows up on the experimental “Tracy”. I definitely wasn’t felling this song either with is terrible Kelis knock off. My favorite song on the album by far is “And If” featuring Ty Of Ty & Kory. It has rapping on it but it’s still something I’d play for my girl to get open too. It’s not too hard, but not to soft that you wouldn’t listen to it by yourself and feel like a punk. Ty Of Ty & Kory show up again on “Do Me Gurl”. It has a Neptunes feel, but I can’t say it sounds copied. All in all, it’s a simple okay song “Rosebuds” is another song I would classify under background music. This song is the reason I compare their sound to Parliament; it had distorted voices talking throughout with occasional harmonizing. I wasn’t feeling it that much but I can see how someone would. “Feel The Bass” features Talib Kweli getting his planet rock on to good results. It’s a straight Hip-Hop song and makes you remember the golden age with is Bambaattaa like disco beat. Sa-Ra continues the rapper trend next with “Not On Our Level” featuring Capone-N-Noreaga. I don’t know when this song was recorded because its sound kinda dated. The song is an average rap song and Sa-Ra playing the background like regular boardsmen. Kurupt is featured on “Lean On Me” but sounds out of place when he talks about “murdering your mother”. The song sounds like something you might hear on a Snoop Dogg compilation; I personally skip shit like that at all cost. Pharoahe Monch turns a great performance on “Fish Fillet”, but other than that it’s nothing to stop for either. J. Dilla fans will enjoy his posthumous verse on “Thrilla” , but the build up of the song isn’t as good as the actual execution. “White! (On The Floor)” may be a metaphor for fucking white girls you see in the club, but I couldn’t tell because I didn’t waste my time after listening to half of it; skip this one people. The song “Bitch” (Good name huh?) was okay. The song talks about not wanting to wife a girl, but still wanting her to be your bitch. I guess I could try to understand that, but when I heard a lyric about “making love on a Saturn ring”, that was it for me. “Ladies Sing” sounded like something I already heard earlier in the album, but the hook is memorable. Sa-Ra really gets its R&B on when Bilal shows up for “Sweet Sour You” If you were expecting a “Soul Sista” sequel, you might want to skip this one; it’s get kinda ugly (and sad). Erykah Badu comes out of hiding to be featured on “Fly Away”. The combination of her and Sa-Ra don’t deliver a classic, but they stay true to each other’s sound. Not bad, not great. “Hollywood (Redux)” has a lot of instrumentation and was okay. It sound as if I was at a concert of some experimental jazz, but it wasn’t terrible at all. I wouldn’t put it on my iPod, but I appreciate the effort.

Bottom Line:
After the smoke cleared, I probably kept like two songs after I finished listening to this album. It’s not that the album is garbage, more like a little over my head. Maybe on second listen I may get more into this one, maybe not. I like that they were trying new shit out, but personally, most of the music didn’t speak to me (I’ll give them extra points on creativity though). Even though this album didn’t blow me away, I can still see the talent. I would only recommend this album to those who want to hear something outside the norm.

nappy Picks: “And If” & “Feel The Bass”

Download: Sa-Ra feat. Ty Of Ty & Kory – “And If”