Saturday, April 9, 2022

CD Odyssey Disc 1551: Jurassic 5

It is windy lately, and the result is fir tree needles are constantly covering my convertible. While this is irksome, I’m confident that if this is life’s biggest problem, you are fortunate indeed.

Disc 1551 is…. Self-Titled

Artist: Jurassic 5

Year of Release: 1999

What’s up with the Cover? A lot of logo action. The shape reminds me of those clunky throwing stars people used to make back in metal shop when I was in high school. The kind that never worked very well, but still got you in a lot of trouble.

How I Came To Know It: One day I was sitting having breakfast in one of my favourite local diners (The Ruby) and I exclaimed, “what is this awesome music I’m hearing?” The server must’ve heard me because she came over and told me it was Jurassic 5. It wasn’t this album, though. This album was me digging back through J5’s catalogue having realized how truly dope they were.

How It Stacks Up: I have three Jurassic 5 albums. I love them all, but one must be last and alas, it is this one.

Ratings: 4 stars

I’m a man of simple tastes when it comes to the rap game. I want some funky beats, I want some dope rhymes and I want great flow. I love a sample, particularly when cleverly combined with one or two other samples, and I don’t have much time for a song where the entirety of its appeal is someone pulling the entire hook from some other song. I don’t like it when a rapper tries to make an affected style or attitude make up for an overall lack of intricacy in the rhyme scheme or word play. I guess you could call me old school.

Enter Jurassic 5, a band that time forgot, that still delivers all the old school qualities I love most, and still sound fresh twenty years later. Greatness endures.

That greatness began with their self-titled EP, which is sadly only 22 minutes long, and has a mere five tunes for your listening pleasure. Fortunately, those tunes are crazy good. Moreover, they are primarily about my all-time favourite rap topic: variations on “look how great we rap”. Bundle up that topic with some exceptional rhymes and metaphor and you’ve not only got the makings of greatness, you’ve got your own promotional campaign. Basically, “Listen to this, while I tell you why you should listen to this.”

J5 has four rappers (Chali 2na, Akil, Soup aka Zaakir, and Marc 7); and two DJs (DJ Nu-Mark and Cut Chemist). That seems like a lot of folks to share two turntables and a microphone, but the stage never feels crowded. Each emcee has their own distinct voice, but their flow blends seamlessly. Think Beastie Boys in terms of skill, but with a smoother, more laid-back cadence.

While I love all the emcees equally, there is something special about the deep rumble of Chali 2na’s bass-baritone vocal. As rap names go I find Chali 2na a wee bit “dad humour” but there’s no denying his flow. One of my favourite sequences is on the album’s opening track, “In the Flesh”:

“No interference we persevere
The purpose is clear
We're here to leave your ear hurtin' severe
You're lurking in fear
'Cause we take it back like Robin Locksley
Rockin' from countryside to spots where hard rocks be”

I realize rap lyrics without the audio delivery sit lifeless on a page, but just trust me that these lines are indicative of the rhyme magic that J5 delivers across the record.

My only gripe with the record is that there are too many skits. Skits are a tradition in rap music that sometimes I appreciate, and sometimes I don’t. The ones here don’t add a lot to the listening experience, and if anything they blunt the momentum of some great rap tunes.

The one exception to this is the final track on the record, “Sausage Gut” which is a 20 second “phone message” where someone gets called fat in various ways. I’ve heard it many times and every single time it makes me laugh.

The best thing about this EP is that Jurassic 5 was just getting started. Like so many rap groups of the era they didn’t last long together, releasing a total of four albums. However, those four records are exceptional, and their debut is no exception.

Best tracks: In the Flesh, Jayou. Concrete Schoolyard, Action Satisfaction, Sausage Gut

No comments: