Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Lazy town

Because I'm a) too insanely busy to write an actual blog post today and b) because the Limerick Leader's usual music writer On The Beat smells and is on holiday, The Board is posting his preview in this week's paper for Akil The MC's solo set in the Belltable on Friday.

Akil, of course, is a founding member of Jurassic Five. The Board, as some of you may have gathered from his earlier post on the topic, likes them a lot. I don't find that to be unethical. No no. And don't worry, The board's brief flirtation with music journalism will be mercifully brief. On The Beat is back next week.

TIME, culture and economics were all fairly cruel to Los Angeles rap collective Jurassic Five, the superstars who never were.

In the late 1990s, after almost 10 years of being bludgeoned by the likes of Ice Cube, the ears of South Central became tuned to an oddly polished brand of post-revival ensemble hip hop. For a group formed in a health store, of all places, Jurassic Five’s 1997 debut EP was an underground joy, dripping with simple beats, cut and paste samples and thinking-man’s lyrical interplay.

It was a hip hop fusion that carried through their ten years together, and is one that will be on display at the Belltable this Friday as founding member Akil The MC performs a highly anticipated solo set.

Jurassic Five weren’t quite a bolt from the blue - the groundwork had been laid years before by A Tribe Called Quest’s seminal ‘Midnight Marauders’ and those pioneers of the genre, De La Soul. But their breakthrough track ‘Concrete Schoolyard’ was equal parts fresh and disarmingly nostalgic, and the group offering “playground tactics/no rabbit in a hat tricks” seemed poised to take hip hop to a smoother place.

But Eminem was about to release the Marshall Mathers LP, and a rap genre that had become pointy and confrontational in the mid 1990s was about to become blissfully mainstream. J5 members Chali 2na, Akil, Soup, Mark 7even, DJ Nu-Mark and DJ Cut Chemist were about to find themselves in the right place at the wrong time.

Word of mouth ensured a full release for their debut EP in December 1998 on Pan Records, and in June 2000 Interscope published their second studio work ‘Quality Control’. Despite weaving together deceptively slick production, social commentary and left field samples - as well as containing the menacing masterpiece ‘Contribution’ - Quality Control was blighted from the start.

The group always had an awkward relationship with Interscope, complaining that the label were attempting to shoe-horn their style into places where it wouldn’t fit. (Prior to releasing ‘Quality Control’ one record company official is reported to have demanded more “Southern jigga-boo” beats).

Still, their creativity peaked with 2002 release ‘Power In Numbers’, which reached number 15 in the US Billboard 200. It was a spell binding record which could have easily been packaged as a concept album, so perfectly did it capture the grief, smooth life and lazy love of black man in modern LA.

2006’s ‘Feedback’ was equally successful commercially, but was met with a lukewarm reaction from critics. By this stage DJ Cut Chemist had left the group and their balance seemed to suffer, with collaborations with Nelly Furtado and the Dave Matthews Band sounding like the product of a group in search of a way.

They split in ambiguous circumstances in February 2007. This Friday founding member Akil performs a solo set at the Belltable on Cecil Street, where he will combine smidgens of his recent solo work with the likes of DJ Format and Japan’s DJ Yuktaka with a blend of J5 staples.

No comments: