[24 July 2006]
Ok, I get it. Jurassic 5 dig the old school.
They long for the days of Kangols and shell toes. The days when Kool Herc, Afrika Bambaataa, and Run DMC ruled their respective arenas. The days when bugged-out break beats bumped out of boom boxes. When graffiti writers were the artistic voice of the inner city. The days when the culture of hip-hop was cultivated.
Jurassic 5 have made that point clear since they dropped their much lauded self-titled EP in 1997. They were part of the new underground, the artistic hip-hop mini-movement that rose as a response to the thug rappers dominating the scene in the mid-‘90s. These brash young MCs and DJs like Mos Def and Kool Keith stressed the style over attitude and thought over bravado.
But where Mos and Kool moved as trendsetters and innovators, attempting to apply their roots to the hip-hop scene rapidly moving and evolving around them, J-5 stayed put, happy to lounge in their lawn chairs and watch the world go by from the comfort of their 1983 perspective.
With their third full-length release, Feedback, Jurassic 5 won’t disappoint fans, but they all but guarantee that they’ll never produce the “Future Sound” they’ve been promising for the last decade.
They still provide the same caffinated lyrical baton passing that would lay waste to most MCs. DJ Nu-Mark and his seemingly endless collection of records from which he creates samples lays down the same intricate yet lo-fi production leaving plenty of room for their crew’s flow to roam.
No one doubts that the talent’s there. They’re just not using it.
For the most part Feedback is old-hat and predictable, a watered-down facsimile of their previous work. It offers 15 tracks that cover all of the prerequisites of a Jurassic 5 album. They provide tracks displaying their love for women in the most tasteful way possible (“Brown Girl”), talking about the old days (“Radio”), and self-reflection, both against the backdrop of a bigger picture (“End Up Like This”) and within the boundaries of their own lives (“Get it Together”).
However, the most insidiously irritating aspect of the album is J-5’s insistence that nothing notable has been produced by the hip-hop community since the mid-to-late ‘80s. They spend much of “Where We At” lamenting the rise of thug rap, which by their estimation seems to include every hip-hop record released since 1993, sounding bitter that after 10 years and three albums they don’t receive the same airplay as some of their flashier contemporaries.
According to them, if they rapped about guns, womanizing, and violence, they’d be kings of the hip-hop universe. Right. Because clearly if you were to throw tits and ass into any Jurassic 5 track, it’d be certified club-bumping gold.
Admittedly, artists like Public Enemy might have had a more volatile political landscape to work with, but something must have happened in the last decade that can create more compelling material than this. It’s one thing to break onto the scene and make sensationalistic claims of being the saviors of hip-hop, but when your third album drops and the best social or political commentary you can muster is that you’re getting older and radio rap sucks, its time to regroup.
Masking contempt for other’s work under the guise of “keeping it real” isn’t just tired, it’s petty. Someone needs to get these guys an I-pod, because the hip-hop globe didn’t stop turning when Jurassic 5 chose to stop paying attention.
Jurassic 5 with Dave Matthews Band - Work It Out
Published at: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/review/jurassic-5-feedback/