Jurassic 5, familiar to most because of the outstanding hip-hop anthem Concrete Schoolyard, have returned for their long-awaited third full-length album.
It’s been three years since their last LP and this is their first excursion since the departure of Cut Chemist. Band member Nu-Mark takes over the bulk of producing duties along with Scott Storch (Eminem, 50 Cent) and Salaam Remi (Fugees). The result is a pleasingly schizophonic mix of old school hip-hop and new school beats.
Many fans have been gearing themselves up for a sceptical reception for this LP, which jettisons the band’s trademark old school sound for a more contemporary journey through the rap scene. Critics might dismiss them as having ‘gone pop’ but there are still some tremendous beats on offer and the MC-ing is as crisp as ever.
Brown Girl features a surprising revision of the old Boney M tune and has quite a poppy, R&B feel to it that is pulled off surprisingly well. Just when you think they’ve ditched their old school beats In The House kicks in, brining you a funky slice of early ’80s prototype rap a la Grandmaster Flash.
The controversial Work It Out is a chilled standout track featuring Dave Matthews. The band have come in for some stick for using Matthews’ slightly uncool stadium filling vocals. But it worked when Kanye West partnered up with that bloke from Maroon 5 so why not here? This is a band that also supported Fiona Apple at one stage – which surely demonstrates their cross-genre appeal. They clearly don’t care if what they’re doing isn’t cool – as long as it sounds good. And to give them their due it certainly does sound good.
For me, the best track is Gotta Understand, which is simply outstanding and features a spine-tingling Curtis Mayfield sample that begs you to sit up and listen to it straight away. Red Hot is also a classic and features a blazing funk sample in a track that makes turning up the volume irresistible.
The album proper rounds off with Nu-Mark’s superb Latino tinged instrumental Canto De Ossanha. Then, as an extra treat, we get a bonus track of the band performing the classic A Day At The Races at Brixton Academy.
Whilst most die-hard fans are likely to be put off by some of the tracks on offer, this is the sound of a band settling into comfortable maturity. Feedback does an excellent job of keeping up with today’s varied hip-hop culture. As Zaakir said in a recent interview “If you’re with it, you’re with. If you aint, you aint”. I’m certainly with.