Wednesday, March 20, 2024

CD Odyssey Disc 1720: Jurassic 5

OK, let’s get right to it, shall we?

Disc 1720 is…Power in Numbers

Artist: Jurassic 5

Year of Release: 2002

What’s up with the Cover?  I think this is the skyline of Los Angeles which would make sense, given that’s where the band is from.

However, this Los Angeles appears be suffering from an unpermitted hip hop concert. Or maybe a zombie outbreak. Hard to know just from the hands reaching out, since concert goers and zombies are both known to do this, albeit for very different reasons.

In any event, it looks like we need a bylaw officer…or Rick and Michonne. Hard to know who until you get a little closer and that point it’ll be too late. You’ll either start dancing or get eaten.

How I Came To Know It: It was playing a local diner (the Ruby) and I asked what it was. Turns out it was a band I didn’t know, and desperately needed to.

How It Stacks Up: I have three Jurassic 5 albums. “Power in Numbers” comes in at #1.

Rating: 4 stars but almost 5

Rap music is replete with rappers that can spit fast rhymes, but there are very few bands that can hold a candle to the technical mastery of Jurassic 5, who have not one, not two, not three but four brilliant rappers.

Listening to their finest work, “Power In Numbers” you may initially want to pick a favourite. For me, it is easy to catch the groove of Chali 2na first because with his deep gravelly bass vocals he sounds so singularly different from other rappers. However, picking just one of these masters is a mistake.

Instead recognize that what makes Jurassic 5 so brilliant is that all of these guys are at the top of their game, each in their own way. Revel in the switch, bar to bar, hip hop’s version of a bluegrass solo, where everyone gets their turn. And if you absolutely loved one guy’s section, don’t worry, he’ll come around again soon enough. While you are waiting – there’ll be three other dudes droppin’ killer rhymes.

The beats are as groovy as they come, and the samples inspired. There is even a fair bit of jazz flute thrown in (very noticeable on “If You Only Knew”). What’s that? You are not a fan of jazz flute? Believe me when I tell you that Jurassic 5 will change your mind.

What every one of these masters shares is an ability to drop complex rhymes absolutely brimming with internal rhyme, rhymes flowing over the bar, rhymes piled on top of one another that you are certain it will collapse like some kind of Jenga tower yet never does. Do NOT try to rap along with them. You will be breathless just listening. Trying to keep up in real time will likely only result in you passing out. Only attempt if already seated on your couch.

In addition to furious rap talent and surprisingly welcome jazz flute, these guys drop some dope beats. These songs aren’t just technically brilliant, they are groovy and made for dancing. You will want to move your booty (unless seated in your car, then a well-timed head bob is appropriate). All the tracks are great, but the single “What’s Golden” is about as good as it gets.

The second half of the record isn’t quite as good as the first, but that just means it goes from perfection to just plain excellent. Maybe the songs are a bit more languorous in nature, or maybe my brain was just exhausted hearing that many clever rhymes all in a row.

Also, the final tune “Acetate Prophets” is six and half minutes of drum beat exploration. By this point of the album I would forgive almost anything, but at about the five-minute mark I felt my patience tested.

These very minor quibbles aside, you can’t come much closer to 5-star perfection than “Power in Numbers”. The record is a brilliant collection of talent at the height of their collective power. It is a shame they’d only do one more record together before going their separate ways, but that rarity makes this moment all the sweeter.

Best tracks: Freedom, If You Only Knew, Break, What’s Golden, Sum of Us, One of Them, I Am Somebody

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