Not long after 9/11, my favorite local record store began stocking up on European reissues of Turkish psychedelia from the late sixties and early seventies. Perhaps the third wave of musical imports from the greater Middle East that I can remember being taken up by American hipsters (beginning with their adoption of Ofra Haza in the mid-nineteen eighties,) the timing was entirely appropriate. Amidst the wreckage of the World Trade Center, American music fans were instinctively finding themselves drawn to the sounds of the Islamic equivalent of New York, London, or even San Francisco.
Indeed, if one wants to take a sampling of what makes the music of the eastern Mediterranean so unbelievably great, you can't do any better than listen to what's been coming out of Istanbul over the course of the past fourty years. Thus, I was reminded, as I delighted in the strangely familiar sounds of an American album whose arrangements epitomized what's best about Middle Eastern pop. The second full-length to be issued by Madlib's younger brother, Oh No, Dr No's Oxperiment is the closest thing that one will get to an archetypal Lebanese or Israeli Arab hip-hop record like Clotaire K's Lebanese LP, or DAM's more recent album, Dedication.
Relying exclusively on regional source material, if there is a recording that reflects a Middle East-impacted American zeitgeist, this album is ground zero. Opening with the Turkish fuzz guitar of "Heavy", to the mournful Arabic vocal part of "Down Under" near the it's end, Dr No is an excellent example of how organically Middle Eastern music and American hip-hop speak to each other. As cheesy as that sounds, it's the political metaphor implied by that conversation's fluency that's so crucial. Think back to the pretense of the album's title. It's like a book report about the positive things Americans may have learned from their Iraqi sojourn. Baghdad Calling, anyone?