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Saturday, March 23, 2013

Random Album Review: Quality Control by Jurassic 5

[Repost From Old Site]
I'm a white guy from the burbs. I was very unpopular throughout most of my schooling. Ergo, I am not as predisposed as many to identify with Hip-Hop as a musical genre. A lot of kids from my time and place were; jocks, mostly. But us rejects found ourselves identifying with stuff like punk, metal and limp-wristed indie rock.
Jurassic 5 is the group that turned it all around for me. This is the first Rap/Hip-Hop album that I ever truly fell in love with, and to this day it's one of the very few that I can actually sing along with.
The thing that initially attracted me to this band was the overall positive outlook of the lyrics, and the ensuing feeling of confidence-not cockiness-that the group projects.
Male bravado is an essential ingredient in a lot of Rap, but too often it takes the form of selfishness, pride and avarice. Though even this attitude can have a lot to offer, I found myself immediately in love with J5's swagger, because they never sound like they think they're better than you (except perhaps at basketball, see "Game") I heard "The Influence" on a compilation disc that came with an issue of some free music magazine I picked up at a record store (remember those?). The innovative DJ work of Nu Mark and Cut Chemist immediately set this song apart from the majority of Rap I had heard; the driving double kick drums and acapella loop give it an entirely different feel, not to mention the virtuoso ensemble rapping of the 4 singers. I had never heard anything like it, so I picked up the album.
"Quality Control" is overflowing with unconventional Hip-Hop that turns the norms of the genre upside down. Instead of greed and violence, one finds gratitude and humility ("Great Expectations"), woe for the urban male growing up under the influence of damaged idols ("Lausd") and unashamed, child-like fun (the brilliant DJ work on album-closer "Swing Set").
The six musicians of J5 (yep, six, not five) each have a unique point of view to contribute, and this, their first major label release, puts it all into sharp, harmonious focus.
A few years after hearing this album for the first time, I had the pleasure of seeing J5 live. It was the only Rap show I've ever been to (unless you count Ice Cube's spot on the inaugural Family Values Tour) and it was a unique experience that I will never forget. From the stunning performances of the songs I knew, to Nu Mark's incredible school desk beat-making set (literally banging out beats on a school desk borrowed from the local high school) to the avant-garde-ish performance the rappers gave using something that looked like a long spinning pool noodle (you know, the ones you used to float on as a kid?), the show was filled with memorable experiences.
And so is the album "Quality Control"

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