Wednesday, February 18, 2009

This blog thing isn't nearly as hard as I for some reason thought.

Anyway, I'm still waitin' on those headphones, so I don't have a review of those yet. But, I've got something altogether different to review. Took a trip west to Slackers this evening and picked up a new CD for the mix. This one's an album I'd heard of a while back via my Pandora radio account, but never really gave a chance after those initial few listens. Well I decided to grab it and it was well worth it.

Guru is one half of the hip-hop duo Gang Starr. They were one of the first groups to begin to fuse hip-hop and jazz. So it makes sense that Guru's solo attempts would all focus on this same ideal.

On Jazzmattazz Volume II (1995), Guru further enforces his status of lyrical master, as first established with Gang Starr. While a lot of his lyrics may be a bit boastful of this talent (and rightly so I could argue), he manages to balance that out by including and focusing heavily on the support of a whole list of supporting musicians. He also makes it a vital point to list many of those collaborators and give much thanks to them in the introduction of the album -- not at the very end of the outro, which many artists try to slip in last minute. Pretty modest move if you ask me.

Virtually every song features one of many talented guests, some hip-hop and some jazz. The list includes Chaka Khan (yup), Jamiroquai, Freddie Hubbard, Ini Kamoze (who is actually a prominent reggae artist -- ever heard 'Welcome to Jamrock' by Damian Marley? Well he was the dude who wrote the sample that goes "out in the streets, they call it muuuurder!" Know what I'm talkin about? Yeah, that was Ini), Big Shug, and others. Wicked 90s right? Definitely.

Despite the fact that he looks like a malnourished DMX on the cover of this album (no offense), he sounds much smoother. You can see how he influenced current artists like Common and The Roots -- both of whom integrate jazz heavily into their acts -- both lyrically and in terms of beats. When Guru says Jazz Matazz [matters, get it?], the dude means it. Instrumentally speaking, JM Volume II represents the best possible blending of two musical styles with no gaps left unfilled and not a single awkward transition to speak of.

Which leads me to my final point: production. This album is virtually flawless in terms of production, despite the range of producers who participated, which is something of a standard in hip-hop, though most of it was finished in-house by Guru. Tracks by the Solsonics and DJ Premier (the other half of Gang Starr) are definitely worth checking out.

All-in-all Jazzmattaz Volume II is definitely worth picking up sometime if you dig 90s alternative hip-hop. Gang Starr is one thing, but Guru solo is a mighty contender, proving that he can stand just as tall on his own. Recommended tracks include "Looking Through the Darkness", "For You", "Choice of Weapons", and "Respect the Architect".

If you wanna check it out, swing by the place sometime or shoot me an email. I'm willing to share.




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