Though the title of this album might lead one to believe otherwise, Ras G is far from grounded on Planet Earth. Born Gregory Shorter, Jr., the hip-hop producer and Poo-Bah Records founder is often viewed as the most "out there" producer on Flying Lotus' Brainfeeder imprint, someone who blends Afro-futuristic references informed by a deep appreciation of Sun Ra, alien electronics, and mind-expanding beats. Ras G long been considered a leading figure in Los Angeles' experimental beat scene, and his latest full-length continues to explore the boundaries of time and space, but Back to the Planet fails to properly capture his cosmic spirit.
The LP opens with a jarring mess of crashing cymbals and an assortment of samples of unknown origins. A mysterious voice cuts through the noise: "It's like a whole 'nother world up there/A whole 'nother planet." She fades away, and chaos reigns again for the remainder of the track. The rest of the album is less nightmare-inducing; "All Is Well..." is actually quite lovely, and is actually more hypnotic and meditative than the deceptively titled "OMMMMM..." He gets into funkier territory with "_G Spot Connection," and finally lands a hit with "One for Kutmah," where Ras G sounds the most like, well, Ras G. Named for the exiled DJ/artist, the song introduces the kind of earth-shattering bass and raw energy that drives Ras G's stellar live performances.
At times, Back on the Planet feels weird for the sake of being weird; it's a little too self-indulgent, and frustratingly messy as a result. "Asteroid Storm..." sounds like Lynchian fever dream—in a bad way—while "Find Ya Self (ANU Wrld)" is stuffed with curious beats and vocal samples that never coalesce into a coherent song.
Ras G has said that this album was inspired by his spirituality and the lifecycle of a recent relationship, but those things don't really translate into the music, as no particular emotion or narrative—whether it be his own, or sampled—shines through. Furthermore, Back on the Planet is largely lyric-less, and is thus free of any kind of manifesto or mission statement that might shed some light on his intentions. The abstruse song titles are no help either; "Injera, Lentils, and Kale" and "CosMc Lounge Kisses" aren't exactly illuminating. In short, the album feels directionless. There is no build up, and there is no release. The LP is merely a collection of somewhat compelling, hip-hop-leaning beats that largely go nowhere; it's more like a dressed-up beat tape, and not a particularly exciting one at that.