Artist: Funky DL
Album: Blackcurrent Jazz
Label: Washington Classics
Rating: 9 / 10
Reviewer: A to the L
Heads around the world may not be familiar with Funky DL. UK heads may recognise the name, but may have constantly avoided him because of the “uproar” his name used to cause. Japanese Hiphop heads will perhaps be more familiar with him. Outside of these two areas, it seems that Mr DL has remained unknown.
And the “uproar” I mentioned? Well, when Funky DL first came out in 1996, UK rap was still really trying to establish its own identity, and he committed the cardinal sin of using a US accent when he was spitting. The same cats who religiously rocked KRS albums where he attempted that wack Jamaican style, where shitting on Funky DL for the same thing, and also overlooking some incredible production skills while they were at it. Undeterred, DL went on to produce four albums, and found a more-than-willing fanbase in Japan, where he continues to be a well-recognised Hiphop name.
Album number five, “Blackcurrent Jazz”, has already been released to great acclaim in the land of the rising sun. Can DL’s success in the far east translate to sales around the rest of the globe?
The album opens with the bouncy ‘Talk About’, which incorporates an uptempo jazz pattern and clap-clap snares. A nice introduction for new fans, and a welcome back to old fans – it’s a pleasant start to the album, and creates a summery vibe that carries into the next couple of cuts, ‘2Long’ and ‘& Ask For DL’. Once again, DL utilises some catchy jazz breaks to brighten up the track – the latter cut is especially memorable with its smokey jazz-club feel.
The only possible downside is that this could turn into a “mood” album. As the album continues, it becomes clear exactly why it contains the word “jazz” in the title. Almost every track seems to feature another funky jazz break – and for those who like their jazz in small doses, it may just be a little too much.
On the occasions when DL steps away from jazz styled production, he proves that he still has skills on the boards. The incredibly funky ‘Roll The Dice’, where he shouts out Ali Shaheed Muhammed is a perfect example. It’s plain that throughout his career, DL has been influenced by groups like Tribe, and Slum Village – those snares would fit onto “Midnight Mauraders” perfectly, and his flow on ‘Tangible’ can compare with the best that Tip and Phife can offer. Elsewhere, ‘Prediction’ (a rant against all that’s wrong with the Hiphop industry which features a horn fanfare that never gets repetitive) and the beautiful ‘Simply 2 Complicated’ (which is an amazing example of Premier-by-numbers) provide further evidence that there’s more to Funky DL than jazz breaks. Even the blatent attempt at commercial rap, ‘The Music’ doesn’t draw as big a frown as it might have done a few years ago. But at a time when Jigga and Ja-Rule are dominating the charts, how can it?
It would be a shame if Funky DL continues to remain on the fringes of success after this. With “Blackcurrent Jazz” he’s provided an incredibly addictive album, that hasn’t been off my playlist for the last couple of weeks. Make sure it makes it onto yours too.