Old school brings down the house, brings in the funk

What do you get when you combine fresh beats and funky samples with creative lyrics and old-school rhyme styles? You just might get Jurassic 5, one of the best new hip-hop crews to emerge from the Los Angeles rap underground of the late ’90s. Last Wednesday night at the Vic Theater, 3145 N. Sheffield Ave., a young and spirited crowd packed the house and got to see firsthand that the L.A. hip-hop scene has more to offer than pimped-out thug appeal.

Jurassic 5, a six-man group composed of four emcees (Chali 2Na, Zaakir, Akil, and Marc 7) and two DJs (Cut Chemist and DJ Nu-mark) took the stage as part of the Word of Mouth Tour after The Beat Junkies, Dialated Peoples and MC Supernatural warmed up the crowd with exceptional turntablism and inventive rhyme skills. J5’s set at the Vic lasted over an hour-and-a-half and featured songs from both their 1997 self-titled EP and their most recent album, Quality Control, which has sold more than 200,000 copies since its release in June.

Although both albums have been enthusiastically received by audiences because of their quirky samples, intelligent rhymes and overall feel-good lyrical flow, hearing the recordings is only one part of the real J5 experience. When listening to the tracks on J5’s albums, you can’t help but smile and nod in rhythm with the sing-song delivery of the choruses. However, when the group performs live, the dynamic and varied rhyme styles of each emcee are more noticeable and complement the group repetition of every chorus.

Teamwork was a large part of Wednesday’s concert. Each of the emcees was on point, trading rhyme flows and harmonizing, demonstrating a vitality and playfulness reminiscent of groups like The Pharcyde, De La Soul and A Tribe Called Quest.

Highlights of the show included a drum solo by DJ Nu-mark, to which Cut Chemist skillfully mixed beats from the turntables while a sea of heads bobbed in unison. Near the end of the set, J5 surprised the audience by briefly exiting the stage while two dancers provided dance breaks to the sounds of Quality Control’s final instrumental/electronic track, “Swing Set.”

Eventually the show came to a close, but only after MC Supernatural and the crews of Dilated Peoples and the Beat Junkies joined Jurassic 5 for some free-style and improvisational rhyming.

If it’s a G-Thang you’re looking for, Jurassic 5 may not be up your alley, but if you’re hungry for truly inventive lyrics and music that integrates jazz, funk and soul with dope beats, J5’s next Chi-town show should not be missed. nyou

Speech sophomore Liz Bangs is an nyou staffer. She can be reached at [email protected].


New album lets old blues hand play new tricks

By Sam Ives

Delta blues, unlike some other musical genres, embraces conventions. Set chord progressions and repetitive lyrics might seem restrictive at first, but when successful, the conventions can enhance the power of the music much like a well-written sonnet seems all the more impressive because of its originality within a fixed framework. T-Model Ford, whose latest release She Ain’t None of Your’n sounds like it was recorded 50 years ago, sometimes stumbling along through the same-old worn-out blues format. Songs such as “Wood Cuttin’ Man” and “She Asked Me So I Told Her” neither break new ground, nor do they particularly impress as tributes to earlier artists who mixed Delta and electric blues styles.

However, Ford’s emotional voice and resonant guitar work keep the album alive and somewhat fresh. The guitars and percussion parallel the flowing lyrics of “Sail On,” and the raucous “Leave My Heart Alone” begs to be listened to at high volume. Ford’s lyrics generally stick with traditional topics, but his raw sound gives the album a consistent mood from beginning to end. The new album doesn’t see Ford branching out much musically, but he knows where his talents lie and the latest album further establishes his warranted position within this familiar format. nyou


Blonde Redhead inflicts pain on your brain

By Benny Monson

Let me explain. You hear music, you start nodding, slight smile, maybe a little “yeah,” look around, drum roll and “F%*#-in’ A, man.” It can do that to you. I’ve been there. A reaction is desirable, to an extent. I just didn’t know music could make you have a panic attack.

The new five-song Blonde Redhead EP, Melodie Citronique, is, for lack of better words, pain inducing.

I’ve heard these guys before. In fact, I almost went to see them live. I’m a sucker for Indie rock. I’m a sucker for slidy guitars and spacey lo-fi and droning. I love droning. I own every Low album. I fall asleep to Brian Eno.

Melodie has all that. Why did it give me cold sweats and chest pains and turn my head fuzzy? I’ll tell you why, Skippy.

The female members of this trio, Amedeo and Simone Pace, squeal like dead somethings on about every track. In French, then Italian, then English… squealing, squealing, squealing. Ask my good friend Lee Overtree to make you a face to portray this pain. (It’s a beauty face, Lee.)

These songs have so much potential. The first track on an album really has to hit you. “En Particulier” starts building steam … yes, you might just smile and bob that head.

But where does it go? Lee jovially asked, “Do the drums come in?” Ha, ha, nothing comes in. “Does it pick up?” No. “Any horns?” No. “Any little solos?” No. “Are all the songs like this?” YES!

On song two, “Odiata per le sue virtu,” I started wondering if these guys were still in junior high. On “Slogan,” you’ve gotta wonder how the drummer keeps going. Just the way I did: exhausted, jaw gaping, wondering why my editor gave me this CD for my first review ever. nyou