Edan is the epitome of the postmodern hiphopper. A Boston Jew who sounds like a Bronx-born African American weaned on Nuggets compilations and LSD, Edan Portnoy seems like a music critic's conception of the ideal mongrel rap performer. That he appeared on the February cover of The Wire, a respected but stuffy experimental music mag out of London, is astonishing. The Wire rarely runs lengthy stories on rappers, especially ones who've only two albums to their name.
Most people have discovered Edan through his second album, Beauty and the Beat. With a cover that alludes to De La Soul's 3 Feet High and Rising and the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's, Beauty encapsulates both albums' stylistic omnivorousness and freewheeling playfulness.
Steeped in both golden-era hiphop's lyrical bravado (seasoned with surreal wordplay and props to forerunners) and rock's first great leap into psychedelic expansiveness, Beauty sounds like no other contemporary rap LP. As a producer, Edan is a maximalist, recalling the Dust Brothers, the Bomb Squad, and Justin Warfield's My Field Trip to Planet 9. Beauty's 13 concise tracks teem with expertly layered snippets culled from a vinyl stash that would give Jive Time's clerks heart palpitations. Edan's grasp of funk is as solid as Ultramagnetic MCs', but he embellishes that with samples of left-field sunshine pop, fuzz-toned psych/garage rock, and spacey synth bleeps. It's an endorphin-flooded flashback to the future.