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To start things off, some records that were released in July that I missed out on last column...
Jurassic 5 is back with a new record, Feedback, out on Interscope. My feelings have always been mixed about this group; I respect what they do and the members are all talented MCs/producers in their own right, but there seems to always be something missing from the collective equation. This new record is their most commercial effort to date, for better or worse. The tracks that work best are the ones that feel closest to the J5 heart: Nu-Mark's piano beat makes "Back 4 U" a proper intro to the record, and producer Bean One's Curtis Mayfield-sampling "Gotta Understand" feels appropriate for the breezy rhyme tradeoffs that are the 5's bread and butter. Other songs don't succeed quite as well. Salaamremi.com's electro beat for "Radio" feels tinny and uninspired, and super-producer Scott Storch's "Brown Girl" sounds out of place in the back-to-basic, old-school mélange that comprises most of the record. But the 5 are searching for a radio hit, as explained by member Zaakir in their press release. They've always been darlings of the underground, and their fan base here and abroad is devoted, but mainstream success has remained elusive. I'm not sure if this is going to change anytime soon for Jurassic 5, even with their the bizarrely-collaborated lead single, "Work it Out," with Dave Matthews Band. I'm sorry, but huh? DMB's frat-boy, jam-band fan base, as rabid it is, just ain't the answer. Fortunately, songs like the simple, Nu-Mark-produced "Where We At" offer some respite, allowing J5 to do what they do best - spit old-school rhymes that vary between party and conscience over back-in-the-day beats.
Another July release that I missed last time: Jern Eye, a member of Oakland's Lunar Heights crew, released a solo album: Authentic Advantage (NatAural High Records). Produced by the likes of Vinroc, Phil Jahns, and Eye, himself, Authentic is a nice excursion into a mix of Hieroglyphics and Quannum-style hip-hop - feel-good, smooth around the edges, but precise rhyming and beats. Jern raps about everything from comic books to cars (hyphy, son!), and remains part of the conscious but not bogged-down scene. Some of the back-up r'n'b vocals could have been left off ("Insight", featuring Noelle of The Rebirth), but it doesn't slow the record down excessively.
Album of the month time, kiddies: Scienz of Life's The Blaxploitation Sessions (Shaman Work). Skip right ahead to "Top Contender," and bliss out. Lil' Sci and I.D. 4 Windz lace this track with ridiculously ill, straightforward, and imaginative rhymes, over I.D.'s simple and infectious beat. "You can ask Bobbito, we anti-weak flow," they rap, and it's not hard to believe. Yes, this is prototypical underground hip-hop, but it's so much more than that. Apparently, this is a precursor to a full-length that the two will release next year, and I can't wait. The minimal and drum-heavy beats of songs like "Still Standing" and "Dear Zev (Never Give Up!)" - is the latter an open letter to Zev Love X? - perfectly complement Scienz' dexterous, adventurous, and clever wordplay. Don't sleep on this one!
Also out now on Shaman Work is Wale Oyejide's Africa Hot! The Afrofuture Sessions. This Nigerian-born singer/producer's new record is a mix of house, experimental broken beat, and hip-hop. Pulling as much from Fela Kuti as he is from Eric B and Rakim, Oyejide sings in both English and Yoruba. At times, the chord structure and similar vocal melodies blend the songs together, but it's a fine blend and should offer some eye-opening music expansion to the average hip-hop fan. The afro-beat scene has been around for some time, and this modern take on it is worth checking out.
Come widdit, selectah! Sorry, that was some retarded, jacked-up attempt at Jamaican patois, but there's a reason for it: New Flesh's new record, Universally Dirty (Big Dada). Hailing from the UK, this project is the brainchild of producer Part 2, who is joined here by MC's Juice Aleem and Toastie Tailor. The two rap and chat over seriously bastardized beats that mix dancehall, grime, hip-hop, and garage in an unabashedly haphazard manner. The results are prime, and as proven by artists like Dizzee Rascal, Roots Manuva, and Lady Sovereign, the distinctly UK sound is always that much fresher to American ears. Lead single "Wherever We Go" blissfully blends acid bass with electric guitars, and "Home Movie" is pure grime/garage madness set to a skittering-step beat featuring MC Toastie.
If you're still looking at producer/MC Oh No as Madlib's little brother, it's time to squash that shit right now. Since No's stellar debut, The Disrupt, he has become one of the most prolific producers working for Stones Throw. His new album for the label, Exodus Into Unheard Rhythms, is proof positive that he is a unique and crucial voice in hip-hop today. This is a concept album of sorts, at least as far as its base: all beats are drawn from samples of the work of Galt MacDermot, the composer of the musical Hair and many funk/jazz tunes over the years. Oh No is joined by a different MC on almost every track. Highlights include "Black" (featuring the return of Poor Righteous Teacher's Wise Intelligent), "Beware" (Cali Agents), "Know Better" (Wordsworth), and "Smile a Lil Bit" (De La Soul's Posdnuos). About the only song here that fails to reach the top echelon is "Second Chance," a collaboration with Aloe Blacc on which he sounds out of tune and tired. Also, some of the underground staples like Vast Aire and Buckshot put in appearances that don't even come close to underused vets like AG. Not being familiar with the work of Galt MacDermot, as this reviewer isn't, shouldn't matter much here. No's beats are put together with both maximum bang and precise structure in mind, and the '60s and '70s-style funk that they draw from seems like it must stand up on its own.
Dr. Who Dat? , the alter ego of Philadelphia-based producer Jneiro Jarel, has a new record out on Lex called Beat Journey. Although the Lex website might have you believe this is some nerdy, sci-fi-influenced based on the Dr. Who character, this is actually an extremely creative instrumental record from a producer who we'll be probably be hearing a lot more from very soon. Jarel's production style blends abstract electro noises with smooth King Britt-style beats. Both experimental and ready for rhymes, this is an engaging beat album, a feat that isn't always so easy to accomplish. Blending spacey jazz breaks with warped snippets of sampled MC's, Jarel's touch is light and his arrangements intelligent, making Beat Journey stand up with the best work of the late, great J Dilla. Jarel's supposedly working on a solo record with Imani of The Pharcyde, so keep an eye out for that one.
And finally, mixtape of the month award definitely goes out to Jae Millz and DJ E.Nyce for Last of the Best, available from Mixunit.com. Harlem is represented fully here by Millz, a mixtape vet who is semi-famous for appearing on The Making of the Band's second season to go up against Ness in a battle of rhymes. Millz has a forthcoming record due out on Universal, and in the meantime he's joined by Lil' Wayne and Fabolous ("Bring it Back Remix"), Remy Ma ("What U Wanna Do"), and Jadakiss ("Bring it Back"). This is gritty uptown NYC-style hip-hop, and Millz' soft-spoken flow is flexible and personable. Check out the reworking of Kanye West's "Here 'Em Say," where Millz cleverly twists the rhymes of the original over its recognizable beat - "And I heard 'em say, there ain't a rapper out that can fuck with Jae."
That's all for this month. Glaciers will be back in September with more treats by the pound, and until then... e-mail with thoughts and insults, and send me yer shit! I'll listen to it. Glaciers is ghost like Casper.
Jonah Flicker writes, lives, drinks, eats, and consumes music in New York, via Los Angeles. He once received a fortune in a fortune cookie that stated the following: "Soon, a visitor shall delight you." He's still waiting.
See other articles by Jonah Flicker.
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