Friday, May 1st, 2009 | News, Reviews

N.A.S.A – Spirit of Apollo. ‘Houston, we don’t have a problem here’
I’ll be honest; there hasn’t been a lot in the world of hip hop that has grabbed my attention lately. I’ve listened to plenty of albums, some good, some not so good, but none that have really made me want to listen again and again. Then came ‘The Spirit of Apollo’, the innovative and funky debut effort from two creative producers who call themselves N.A.S.A. Comprised of Sam Spiegel (aka Squeak E. Clean, brother of Spike Jonze) and Ze Gonzalez (aka DJ Zegon), N.A.S.A first attracted my attention with their almost bizarre collection of collaborations; the prospect of Talking Heads frontman David Byrne trading verses with the likes of Chuck D, Chali 2na and Gift of Gab, The RZA sharing a track with John Frusciante, and Ol’ Dirty Bastard rhyming with the taunting Karen O of trendy Yeah Yeah Yeah’s fame, was obviously intriguing, and certainly refreshing  in what has become a slightly stale game.

A common love of Brazilian funk (N.A.S.A. is an acronym for North America/South America) led to Spiegel and Gonzalez forming the joint venture and starting work on what is one of the trendiest and most innovative releases for some time.  Think Handsome Boy Modelling School, but with a bit of South American flair, complete with its own solid collection of impressive names from across the hip hop playground, and a few from outside it even! And the Duo has their fingers on the pulse, the pairing of production to MC’s is spot on; from the poppy electro-tinged “Gifted”, featuring Kanye West and Santogold, to the dark drums and gritty electric guitar loop on RZA’s track (not to mention the eerie wailing of Barbie Hatch), N.A.S.A appear to have set out to create the perfect beats for the artists on each track. Even the odd combinations are enjoyable; this is none more evident than in “Spacious Thoughts”, which sees abstract verbal warfare from Kool Keith paired off against the bizarre growl of Tom Waits on the chorus.

N.A.S.A – Way Down feat. The RZA, Barbie Hatch and John Frusciante

Before N.A.S.A came along, Santogold and Spankrock were among the last two discoveries that had sparked my interest with any significance. Pleasingly, both appear on this album! Diverse artists as far as hip hop goes, their combination on the upbeat electro-hip hop banger “Whatchadoin?” will have you dancing for sure.  Spank Rock bounces through his verses with M.I.A and Santogold chanting the catchy sing-a-long chorus together; easily one of my favourite tracks. Santogold also appears on “Gifted” with Kanye, one of the other standouts on the album, although soon to be a radio nuisance I’m sure. Love him or hate him though, this is a very catchy track, perfect for Mr West’s style. Ol’ Dirty Bastard shouts out to N.A.S.A from the grave in one of my other favourites, “Strange Enough”.  Apparently the last track he recorded (uh… heard that before…), Spiegel and Gonzalez have done Dirt Dog proud with a huge head-nodder to go with his trademark  killer rhyme style, with strong support from Fatlip and Karen O on the hook. Chali 2na pops up twice, and although he’s possibly getting a bit stale (and I’m a big fan of his!), produces a great party track with the legendary George Clinton, who was apparently in an ‘altered state of mind’ (are we surprised?….).

N.A.S.A – Gifted feat. Kanye West, Santogold and Lykke Li

I could go on all night here; track with Method Man worth mentioning, Ghostface kicks it with The Cool Kids, Del is back in funky style joined by DJ Q-Bert, and the two tracks with David Byrne from Talking Heads are again really strong tracks. This production combination has definitely got it down right here, tight tracks with the perfect rappers, singers and musicians on them; this album, having taking 5 years to complete, was obviously a labour of love that has paid dividends for the Duo. In addition to the album, the group intends to release a full-length documentary film of the making of the album including interviews with the guest who featured on the album, and  behind-the-scenes footage from the studio sessions, check a sneak-peek here for a bit more of an insight into this amazing project:

N.A.S.A. – Spirit of Apollo trailer

This is a very clever album from N.A.S.A., just when hip hop was losing its grip a little bit (well, for me anyway) comes an album that will appeal to hip hop fans from across the entire genre, and no doubt a few on the edge as well (we’ve all got friends who ‘don’t listen to hip hop’…);  infamous well proven hip hop artists like Del, KRS-One, some Wu-Tang royalty and Pharcyde fam mix it up with modern musical heavyweights Kanye West, Santogold and Karen O, not to forget legends outside the hip hop realm such as George Clinton, David Byrne and Tom Waits. Without straying too far from their love of Brazilian funk, N.A.S.A combine indie, hip hop, funk an d rock with ease, and overwhelmingly succeed in their debut mission of bringing artists from across the musical spectrum together to create something fresh and different.

And the good news continues, with N.A.S.A having recently announced an Australian tour this June! Given the impressive array of names on their album, one will wait in anticipation until phrase ‘international guests to be announced’ is fulfilled. Complete with orange spacesuits, four turntables and an impressive visual display as well, N.A.S.A’s live show has a big reputation so it’s sure to be one to catch!

N.A.S.A tour dates:
Thursday 4th June: SYDNEY, Oxford Arts Factory
Friday 5th June: MELBOURNE, The Esplanade Hotel
Saturday 6th June: PERTH, Shape Nightclub
Sunday 7th June: CANBERRA, Winter Warehouse Festival

Catch more of N.A.S.A at:



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2 Comments to N.A.S.A

May 2, 2009

OMFG These guys are awesome!!! Why the f*#K have I not heard of them before??? Love the videos and artwork too…

May 2, 2009

woah… that trailer got me, looks like might be the next ‘individual’ project to come out in hip hop. thanks crack

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