By Daniel Paiz
Welcome to this edition of A Week’s Worth review, where I dig into the newest Mike Shinoda album Dropped Frames, Vol. 2. This ongoing review series is starting to schedule my music week and I’m honestly loving it. To be fair, last week wasn’t the strongest music week, but this project made up for that.
It’s strange how Mike Shinoda continues to get glossed over in the hip-hop game. Perhaps both volumes of Dropped Frames will change that. Either way, let’s jump into Volume 2.
Mike Shinoda drops the frames
Now I’m not sure if you all check out instrumental hip-hop all that much. To be fair, I’m not exactly digging that deep myself for said projects. However, hear me out on why we’re slacking on that. Back in the day, DJs were the focal point in hip-hop. That focus had dropped off, but I think the past decade or so has slightly realigned said interest. Look at how DJ Shadow and DJ Z-Trip are kind of demanding your ears with their mixes.
Yes, that’s not the same as producing one’s own beats. But the thing is, when you do something out of curiosity of your own skill set, good things happen. Shinoda shows that with tracks like this:
This track is arguably one of the best tracks on this album. It’s gaming nostalgia meets hip-hop. Shinoda has been creating on Twitch throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. These creations have included gaining instant feedback from Twitch followers, as well as a collaboration in Vol.1 of the Dropped Frames series. This is special for two reasons.
One, the act of collaboration between artist and fanbase hasn’t really happened in this vein before. Sure, there’s been fan art for all kinds of musicians and artists. There’s been the costly feature an aspiring rapper pays for. But to get this kind of feedback and work with those fans who are dedicated to a larger collaboration is something I haven’t come across for a major artist like this.
Secondly, the challenging oneself in their craft and then putting it out for mass consumption is unusual. Hip-Hop can be overproduced. Pop music in general can sound too polished and lose its authenticity. So when an artist like Shinoda tackles a wide array of nostalgic gaming sounds and synths, and releases it? That’s kind of cool.
Exploratory music is the best escape
I can understand not roving about the musical landscapes across the internet. When I find my niche, I too tend to stick to it. Projects like this straddle that comfort level while also introducing something new. It’s kind of like that project you check out that’s either going to become a secret favorite, or a tape that you randomly return to.
This particular track appears to be a Twitch-fan favorite, as the sound was sent in from Money Mark and Shinoda flips it. I won’t give too much away, but if you listen to the whole thing above (at a higher volume) it will be worth it. That’s another thing that makes these 12 tracks worth it: how escapist they really are.
Nobody needs a reminder of how many people are getting sick, dying, losing jobs, etc. Staying informed is absolutely important. But, so is taking a moment (or two) for yourself during these trying times. One way to do so is a creative entity that provides escapism.
Over the past week, I can’t get past how disconnected this album is. That’s not to say it completely ignores our current world. Rather it’s born out of what everyone is encountering in modern society today, and providing a break. Escapist fanfare that uplifts your spirits, allows you to bob around in a highly silly or energetic manner, and connect with just the music. To think of all the ways people have to connect remotely, and music once again brings folks together.
It’s stunning in its simplicity.
Go listen to it after this article
As Shinoda himself has said, an instrumental album is not a pathway to Billboard’s top five. However, it does present a body of work that’s open to interpretation more so than an album with lyrics. There are usually expected or intended messages with an artist’s word choice. That’s less true when it comes to the music itself. Sure, Shinoda might be saying something in particular with his instrumentals.
It’s just that a lot of interpretations can be simultaneously right when it comes to this type of project. Creating art that’s set up for you to receive it in your own way is special. Very few projects out there can do this successfully.