Artist: Jurassic 5
Album: Power In Numbers
Rating: 7 / 10
Adored as much by trendy indie kids as true hip-hop heads, Jurassic 5 have always been the Westcoast underground €™s flagship group, paving the way for the likes of Dilated Peoples and Ugly Duckling. However, despite the love they get around the world, there have always still been haters, seeing the group €™s retro old school tactics (best displayed on €˜Concrete Schoolyard €™) as backwards, attempting to take the art back to an era long forgotten, presumably in the eyes of these critics, for the best.
While still evident on their second LP, €œQuality Control, € there €™s been a definite progression from these days of the self-titled EP back in 1997 to this, their third release €œPower in Numbers, € where the production is almost self consciously up to date, turning their backs on the simplistic 1980’s sound in order to answer certain detractors. Whether this is a good or bad thing, each listener will have to decide for him or herself…
Given the explosive way €œQuality Control € opened with the classic double team of €˜The Influence €™ and €˜Great Expectations, €™ its quite a shock to first be greeted on €œPower in Numbers € by the lacklustre €˜Freedom €™ and €˜If You Only Knew. €™ While the former is the better of the two tracks, it still doesn €™t feel like it belongs on the same album as the later cuts. As such, the album doesn €™t properly open until track 4, the banging €˜Break, €™ which reminds you once again why you love J5 so much after the disappointing first few songs. Boom bap in the truest sense, it also features a catchy as hell chorus (J5 €™s trademark) and some first-class scratching from the maestro Cut Chemist.
Following on from this track, the album really takes flight and its middle section has to rank as one of the strongest selection of tracks this year. However, this is both a strength and weakness because while €˜A Day at the Races, €™ €˜What €™s Golden €™ and €˜High Fidelity, €™ to name just three, are among the group €™s best work to date, they set standards that the remainder of the album simply cannot sustain with €œPower in Numbers € trailing off towards the end in the same way as it takes a while to get going in the first place. Beatnuts €™ collaboration €˜One of Them €™ is less than a sum of its parts unfortunately, despite a nice scratched hook, while €˜Hey €™ and €˜Acetate Prophets €™ are similarly disappointing, the latter of which seeming like a misguided attempt to capture Cut Chemist €™s €œBrainfreeze € magic in six and a half minutes. Don €™t get me wrong, these tracks are by no means terrible and thoroughly listenable, they just fail to live up to repeated listening when Percy P and Big Daddy Kane killing €˜A Day at the Races €™ is just the push of a button away.
However, as touched on earlier, when €œPower in Numbers € is good, its unbelievably good, with the several instant classics almost certainly gaining the group both crossover appeal and love from the hip-hop community without compromise. There is still one track that deserves something written about it and that is the much publicised collaboration with Nelly Furtado, €˜Thin Line. €™ One listen will tell you all you need to know. Put simply, it is the best song yet recorded by the group, a heartfelt, soulful song speaking about a topic which everyone can relate too, perhaps painfully. Lyrically right on the money, if ever a hip-hop track deserved to top the commercial charts its this, not Nelly and Kelly whining. Even though most would probably call this Jurassic 5 €™s worst release to date, that still puts it several miles ahead of 90% of groups currently recording today. What holds it back from being as good as €œQuality Control € in particular is just its cohesion as a whole album; many of its individual songs are undoubtedly stronger than their counterparts but as a start to finish listen, €œPower in Numbers € does not quite stand up as well as its predecessors. If you buy one Westcoast underground album, make it the latest P.U.T.S, but if you decide to buy two, how can you turn down Kool Keith ( €˜DDT €™) and Nelly Furtado on the same album together?