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Hip hop has become an expansive art form, with artists sampling everything from classical to country music. There are some artists, however, who march to the beat of a different drummer. Raleigh native DJ T-Rock can be classified as one of those artists.T-Rock's Sikinthehed is one those rare CDs that reflects hip hop's early days while still marching ahead to the future. There's no rapping, no bling-bling or tales of urban folklore or misogynistic boasting. Rather, Sikinthehed is mainly beats, samples and scratching that seems to have been done in a lab in outer space, not a basement here on earth. The album is more trip hop than hip hop, and DJ T-Rock fuses trippy beats with weird sci-fi sounds, 80's rap and non-rap samples, and pure turntablism (heavy scratching).

From the first song, it's obvious DJ T-Rock is on some other-galaxy stuff and is determined to take you with him. With an intro like "I killed Ming (stop calling me Flash)," T-Rock sets the tone for the entire CD by using actual Ming the Merciless samples from the 1940's Flash Gordon flicks; he also weaves in a Queen sample from the 80's Flash soundtrack. There's also the bugged-out "Meet My Doctors", a track that sounds like a 1950's psycho-thriller. And the space titles keep coming: "Ruler of the Solar System" is a futuristic, Kraftwerk-like track with mellow scratching, and "U.F.O. In Cruise Control (I've seen it)" is a laid-back track that emphasizes heavy sampling.

DJ T-Rock even transforms himself into a "scratching Robot" on the turntables, first with "Hip Hop Fanatical Android," and then with "Return of the Annihilator Robot." The album itself seems to focus on the art of scratching, a form that has gone the way of the dinosaur these days. With catchy but tripped out titles such as "Dope Scratch Patterns," "Scrachtar Practice" and "I Skratch In My Head," T-Rock brings you back to a time when the DJ, not the MC, was the focal point of hip hop.

All in all, Sikinthehed is just that--a CD that's sick and twisted in the best kind of way. The beats are tight, and you can hear samples from everyone from Freddie Mercury to Lauryn Hill. If it was DJ T-Rock's intent to take us all on a cosmic journey, he succeeded.

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More by Gabriel M. Rich

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