With a catalogue of creativity, and a knack for taking unexpected risks, Reuben has become predictable in only one area: unpredictability. Many try to accomplish the delicate balance between indefinable sonics and pop appeal, and very few are successful.
On Word of Mouth, Reuben proves that defying category is a musical imperative, and he does it with more candor, wit, and resolve than ever before. He came up on the seminal inspiration of pioneers De La Soul, A Tribe Called Quest, Hieroglyphics, Pharcyde, and others who dominated early '90s hip-hop. But as his career developed he diversified his influence base to include everything from Bjork to Sunny Day Real Estate to Daft Punk. The result is Word of Mouth—an eclectic commentary of spoken word verses with pop choruses atop a diverse collection of stimulating beats, samples, and real instrumentation inhabiting similar ground as experimentalists Beck and Gorillaz.
“I’ve been fortunate enough to make albums I believe in and still maintain a career “. In an era where artists are here today and gone tomorrow, Reuben has overcome that obstacle and put out his fifth and most enticing release to date. With an ever increasing cult following and over two hundred thousand records sold, Word Of Mouth is his most focused effort yet. Each song seamlessly flows into the other and packs in a wide range of emotion without sounding disjointed. Take the title track and first single, a poignant yet tongue in cheek song with an infectious hook and fairytale like beat that teeters simultaneously between dark and adorable. “Miserable Exaggeration” is no less a feat in it’s appeal, with ambient keyboard lines and an atmospheric emotional hook. “Good Evening” is nearly discotech, with a chorus that touches on the funk/alternative tip. Produced by Joe Baldridge (Beck, Family Force 5) you can bet on solid craftsmanship and sonics from front to back.
Perhaps Reuben’s chief accomplishment and area of expertise is in his role as wordsmith; He excels in crafting spoken-word poetry with hints of activism and social commentary, yet always with a hope-filled spiritual twist. He plays the adversary to hipster culture throughout the record, with double-edged lines like middle class kids glorifying poverty. Reuben is a lyricist first and he will make you scratch your temple and admit, “I’ve never looked at it that way before.” On “Sing It Like You Mean It” (complete with surf guitar and children backups screaming OHIO) he spits, “someday I’ll be your favorite artist. Dumb enough to be that confident. Beat the odds with a back-handed compliment.” Always self-deprecating and humorous in his portrayal of himself, there is no underestimating the comic appeal of this Columbus MC. On “Cool the Underdog” he paints a picture of himself as a cynic and critic, yet comments on how the temptation to think along those lines is a dead end: “I hate to interrupt your fantasy, but that chip on your shoulder is self pity. Self-awareness became unhealthy close your eyes and enjoy the scenery if genius can’t change the world he might as well leave it, if genius can’t change the world he might as well critique it.” Overall, the words of Word Of Mouth come across line by line with insight, at times with bravado, and always with cleverness.
In addition to his track record as an innovative recording artist, Reuben also has a history of communicating his art visually. With the latest online tools of distribution at his disposal Reuben will continue to push into this territory in new ways in support of Word Of Mouth. In early 2006 Reuben and his brother produced a 9-minute “pilot” using the resources from his already established career to create an exaggerated alter-ego. The clip, a mockumentary styled piece that recalls classic satires like “Waiting For Guffman”, found a large audience quickly, amassing over 175,000 views and setting the stage for future clips.
With Word Of Mouth, Reuben will have a number of videos created spanning several styles, and will expand his presence in online and broadcast video. The title track will be accompanied by a fully animated video directed by Reuben’s friend and collaborator Chris Oatley, while Reuben will work with his brother on further clips, as well as with Director Kip Kubin, a member of the noted electronic underground band Venus Hum.
Though thoughtful and philosophical, there is no doubt that Reuben’s ultimate end is metaphysical. As always, Reuben’s portrayal of faith amidst uncertainty—complete with vast amounts of illustration—is more than just a trite appeal to the faithful. It is the vulnerable reflection of an artist who has laid it all on the line. “Like most artists, I write from my own experiences with the understanding that my experiences can translate into other peoples lives. It all breaks down to hopes and dreams, human depravity and good times.” A hip-hop album with left of center pop appeal, “I wouldn’t want to make any other album right now.” John’s goal? To motivate anyone and everyone to uncross their arms, drop any attitude, and join with him in enjoying the music. In many senses, this is an album to incite a party across many barriers of genre and subculture.
As always, Reuben plans to play shows anywhere and everywhere he can to support his new release.
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