Saturday, June 13, 2009

June 13: Jurassic 5, "Quality Control"

Artist: Jurassic 5
Album: Quality Control
Year: 2000
Label: Interscope

Since the rise of "gangsta rap" in the early 1990's, "conscious" hip hop has mostly lived on the fringes of the hip hop world. While there have been a small number of artist who have achieved small hits here and there, it is truly rare when a conscious rapper or rap group gain large amounts of time in the spotlight. It is largely due to this steep hill to success that there are less and less artists of this style as time progresses. Ignoring this fact and staying true to their roots for the entirety of their fourteen year career, Los Angeles hip hop crew, Jurassic 5, consistently delivered the most intelligent and original beats and rhymes that the world has ever heard. Releasing one EP and three phenomenal full length albums before calling it quits in 2007, their full length debut, 2000's Quality Control is one of the most fantastic hip hop records ever made.

First off, there are, in fact, six members comprising Jurassic 5, four emcees and two DJ's. With a strong influence from the conscious rhymes and group based songs, the influence of A Tribe Called Quest is very clear. The group, which were originally two different groups (Rebels Of Rhythm and Unity Committee), formed as one in late 1993, yet not even an EP appeared from them until eight years later. After the EP hit the streets, Jurassic 5 became one of the mot in-demand underground acts in the country. When Quality Control finally came out, there was so much anticipation behind it, it seemed almost impossible for the group to live up to the hype. However, not only does Jurassic 5 live up to the hype, they exceed it with leaps and bounds, as Quality Control is one of the most brilliant hip-hop records ever released. Since its release, members of Jurassic 5 have appeared on records from Breakestra, Dave Matthews Band, MosDef, Linkin Park, and Nelly Furtado among a large list of others. This ability to work with nearly any musical style is reflected throughout their music, and it is one of the things that makes Jurassic 5 one of the most remarkable and respected groups in the history of hip hop.

The music of Jurassic 5 is made possible by two of the finest DJ's on the planet, Cut Chemist and NuMark. Though he is also well known for his solo work, as well as his contributions with the group Ozomalti, it is with Jurassic 5 where Cut Chemist got his start, as well as released some of his finest work. DJ NuMark is just as talented, and the pair together create some of the most original and amazing combination of beats, samples, and scratching. While on most hip hop records, there is a noticeable separation between the music and lyrics, this duo of DJ's mold beats and samples that follow closely and flawlessly with the rhymes begin rapped. It is in this display of talent that Jurassic 5 moves from "rappers and DJ's" to something that can truly be called a rap group. Cut Chemist and NuMark highlight many of the groups' influences, sampling everyone from James Brown and Quincy Jones to Blowfly as well as clips from Sesame Street, Back To The Future, and The A-Team. It is in large part to this diversity in samples, sounds, and style that keeps each track on Quality Control fresh, and helps to show the wide range in delivery style that the emcees also possess.

The four emcees in Jurassic 5 effortlessly deliver some of the most stunning, tongue-twisting rhymes that the world has ever heard. Each of them has their own distinct sound and style, yet they are all equally impressive and play brilliantly off of one another. Each track on Quality Control flows smoothly into the next, and the songs themselves are a refreshing change from the "pimps and ho's" rhymes that still dominate the hip hop world. Even when rapping at lightning speed, each word is clear and understandable, which is a testament to just how much value the group sees in their lyrical content. It is within the lyrics where Quality Control shows the maturity of the group since the release of their EP. Jurassic 5 targets many of their tracks at the mass media, parenthood, and many other social criticisms. Yet, the almost compassionate way in which they approach these subjects is something that had truly never been heard within the world of hip-hop. Name checking everything from Dreamworks to MC Hammer to Les Miserables, the diversity in material within the rhymes is truly uncanny. Similarly to the music, the emcees are sure to give respect to their influences on Quality Control, referencing hip-hop classic "The Bridge" on "Lausd" as well as name dropping a number of old school hip hop artists throughout "Monkey Bars." While the group is undoubtedly aware of their roots, their sound and style remain modern and fresh, and with their amazing music and lyrics, they are one of the most original hip hop groups in the history of the genre.

Fantastic, unique music and beats combined with some of the most devastating rhymes to ever be recorded lifts Jurassic 5 high above their peers and makes them one of the most important hip hop groups that the world has ever seen. Taking influence and giving a nod back to many of the innovative, influential hip hop groups of the late 1980's, Jurassic 5 has a clear knowledge of their from, and it is this understanding and respect that enables them to create and deliver the stunning rhymes and are found on each song on each of their albums. Never selling out or copping out and completely ignoring the trend of negative, predictable rhymes, the group stays true to their roots and still manages to deliver music of the highest caliber. Quality Control highlights the groups maturity in lyrical content, as well as their stunning ability to play perfectly off of one another on each and every song. It is true that all four releases from Jurassic 5 are well worth owning, it is their debut album, 2000's Quality Control that rises slightly above the others, and serves as a perfecting introduction to this phenomenal hip hop group.

Standout tracks: "Quality Control," "Lausd," and "Twelve."

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