Channel Surfing: Memory Man’s Broadcast One is a Strong Work of Eclectic Hip Hop

by Nick Hanover

Memory Man Broadcast One

Will the kids of the future even know of the media mistrust of tv? Will they be aware of the phrase “I don’t even own a television” and all its subsidiaries? Or will they grow up in a world of television renaissance, of basic cable masterpieces and a lack of mentions of idiot boxes and boob tubes? These are basically the questions asked by Memory Man on Broadcast One, an album that purports to be a document of a broadcast day at the fictional Angry Bee Network, a look back at a time when tv was a babysitter and a surrogate and not strictly intellectual or oriented with a white male power fantasy of revenge and come uppance. Memory Man’s broadcast is one of surreality and potency,  a flip of both a Public Enemy and De La Soul script, divided fairly between political questions of perspective and party questions of fun.

Broadcast One’s network program surfing gimmick is a good fit for Memory Man’s style, allowing the producer to seamlessly shift from the doomy psychedelic aesthetic of Edan’s “PSA (What Does It All Mean?”) to the more frenetic breakbeat heavy “The War Room” towards the end of the album. In an interview over at Passion of the Weiss about his 2009 project Cuban Revolution, Memory Man said that he felt a lot of his sound came out of his interest in lo-fi noises, of “running shitty keyboards through stomp boxes” to give his work a hefty bit of grit. You hear that in “The Kool Keith Show,” where some haunted submarine organ sound punctuates a crystal clear beat and a fuzzy bassline holds down the lower frequency, setting an apocalyptic mood and who better to narrate the end time than Kool Keith?

But there’s a significant level of Prince Paul devotion in Memory Man’s work, too. The Open Mike Eagle-starring “Funtastic” straight up sounds like a lost 3 Feet High and Rising track in the best possible way, while Busdriver and MC Paul Barman fight for dominance against a deranged carnival beat in “Live from Death Row Part One.” The interstitial track “Story Time” follows in that Native Tongues vein too, with a goofy sample about “Hip Hop,” a sad bunny who has big dreams and limited means.

So view Broadcast One as its own little story of light and dark, where psych textures and carnival sounds co-mingle and move in and out of the top of the hierarchy. They come together clearest in “Creature Double Feature,” a spooky number that makes good on the title’s promise, Blaise racing alongside a dexterous double tracked drum beat until gears are shifted and everything gets slow. But their real power is in their consumption as one broadcast day– this is an album that has woven its gimmick so neatly into its DNA that it feels wrong to divorce it and take in only a track or two.

That makes Broadcast One an odd artifact from any number of views, a love letter to an era of tv where you just left it on all day and hoped to find something interesting, a throwback to a hip hop age where the sound was still being defined. Don’t call Memory Man a hip hop historian, though. As he told Weiss, “I have no pretensions of any kind of authority. I’m just a student of music and hip-hop culture in general. I’m drawn to the energy of that early shit and that’s definitely an aesthetic I hold on to as my core.” Broadcast One is simply a display of that solid core and how the right narrative hook can make it even stronger.

Nick Hanover got his degree from Disneyland, but he’s the last of the secret agents and he’s your man. Which is to say you can find his particular style of espionage here at Ovrld as well as Loser City, where he mostly writes about comics. You can also flip through his archives at  Comics Bulletin, which he is formerly the Co-Managing Editor of, and Spectrum Culture, where he contributed literally hundreds of pieces for a few years. Or if you feel particularly adventurous, you can always witness his odd .gif battles with his friends and enemies on twitter: @Nick_Hanover