Twinkle twinkle hip hop star, how you wonder what you are.
L.A. longtime new-old-school crew Jurassic 5 finally returns with a long-awaited second LP, and the results are scattered across the map. Keeping up causes whiplash, which in turn causes a listener’s attention to slip – on the very album where J5 ought to be gunning for crossover.
Part of the problem is the lack of consensus between the three producers responsible for tracks on Power in Numbers. DJ Nu-Mark and Juju (of the Beatnuts) lay down jazzy backing montages that are, frankly, dull; if you’re going to appeal to a hip hop retro aesthetic, it’s ill-advised to sound like “Cantaloop”. The third engineer, Cut Chemist – supposedly the Automator of L.A. – is razor sharp when he’s on (“Break,” “I Am Somebody”) and so nondescript as to become invisible when he’s off (“A Day at the Races,” “Thin Line.”) Still, Chemophiles might prefer to blame guest Nelly Furtado who, as a Canadian, is always a tempting target. It’s frustrating to hear the same producer churn out edgy dissonance and follow it up immediately with a cut and paste 16-bar soul loop.
The MCs themselves – especially Chali 2na, who sounds like Larry Graham with asthma – are decidedly skilled, and trade verses smoothly and casually. But sometimes it seems like watching Barry Bonds take batting practice: Sure, they hit it out every time, but where’s the challenge? On “If You Only Knew,” their positive flows weave in and out of one another’s gracefully, and you get the feeling Jurassic 5 (though, at least on this album, there are seven) could be dizzying with their convergent-divergent voices.
Instead, they’re just dizzying from their lack of a decisive direction.
[DJ Fatkid is dizzying from buying you beers.]