HIDDEN GEMS Hidden Gems: AntMan Wonder, “The Present” By John Morrison · November 20, 2018

In our new series Hidden Gems, writers share their favorite Bandcamp discoveries.

In the late ’90s, well before his ascent as AntMan Wonder, Anthony Markeith Reid was just a kid from Philadelphia, crafting beats on a modest Casio keyboard. After decades of tirelessly honing his craft, Reid has established himself as one of contemporary music’s most inventive composers. To date, his ever-growing list of credits includes work with Anderson .Paak, PRhyme (Royce Da 5’ 9” & DJ Premier), Rick Ross, and many more.

In 2012, Reid “decided to quit” his career in music, with that year’s mini-album, The Present, intended as AntMan Wonder’s parting shot. Thankfully for us, the producer’s initial plan didn’t pan out (in fact, the record’s ornate palette—all dense orchestration, sci-fi effects, and dizzying prog-jazz dynamics, executed with striking precision—would go on to inspire a whole new full-length three years later, titled Memories of the Fewture.) The Present packs an overwhelming amount of musical ideas into its compact, 16-minute running time, revealing a unique sonic world dominated by technical dexterity and regal flair.

The Present opens on a bright, optimistic note with “Saturday’s Best,” a warmly-woven tune built around some nimble interplay between competing electric piano and synth melodies; it’s a song which occupies that curious space between the nostalgic and the futuristic, not unlike keyboardist/composer Alan Hawkshaw’s mid-’70s work for the Bruton Music Library. “Geminian Serenade” similarly evokes the past: between the gnarly guitar leads, the fluid bass flourishes, the dramatic brass fanfare, and the half-time drums, it could easily pass for a deep cut off the soundtrack to some forgotten spy film from the ’60s. Later, on the B-side, they interpolate Jay-Z’s “Bring It On”; freeing the Reasonable Doubt highlight from its original structural confines, AntMan Wonder stretches it out into a multi-sectioned exploration of orchestral boom-bap, one of the record’s biggest standouts.  

As sampling has incorporated the complex musicianship and spirit of jazz, funk, soundtracks, psych, prog rock, Bollywood, and beyond, it was only a matter of time before hip-hop began producing the Grachan Moncurs, Don Sebeskys, and Ennio Morricones of its own. With his deep attention to detail and an adept compositional prowess, AntMan Wonder represents a logical, if eclectic, progression for sample-based hip-hop. Six years later, The Present remains nothing short of a gift.

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