Sa-Ra’s Om’Mas Keith, Shafiq Husayn and Taz Arnold have established themselves as producers with an eccentric mysticism, diffusing their tracks with languid bass, whining horns, warped beats, and “dirty” dialogue. Known for their associations with the music elite to make their jazzy, far-out funk-hop, for Nuclear Evolution, their sophomore album, they’ve enlisted hip-hop soulstress Erykah Badu (“Dirty Beauty”), veteran saxophonist Gary Bartz and his quartet, Noni Lamar (“I Swear”), along with various up-and-coming talents. Having most recently written, appeared, and produced seven tracks from Badu’s New AmErykah, Pt. 1: 4th World War, their long-awaited return feels thoroughly like a producer’s album, instrumental and laidback.
On the whole, Nuclear Evolution is magnificent, though some tracks get lost within their supernatural haze—at 23 tracks, the full-length can seem directionless, a little too jammy in an already-wanderlusty palette. But considering that the spectre of George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic screams loud and proud, the effect is mostly that of a fine recent vintage, grabbing future-funk rumblings from the past to create a colorful, vibrant future. The intro track “Spacefruit” lures its listener with suave-rhythmic bossa nova, while “He Say She Say,” bumps the bass, simultaneously easing the boisterous percussion by fusing fluid vocals. Easy-groove tracks like “Traffika,” reminiscent of a modern-day Digable Planets, are slyly merged into funky electronic instrumentals like “Move Your Ass,” switching up the tempo and reminding us what they’re all about—a groove united in ass-shaking. Nuclear Revolution reinforces Sa-Ra’s standing as paramount modernizers who aim to conquer not just the music world, but the entire cosmos. —Azza Gallab