Jurassic 5, The Patron Saints of Backpackistan, return on June 27 with a another dose of that retro flow:
Jurassic 5 - Feedback
To the truly devoted, the reemergence of Jurassic 5 is the like the return of The Sopranos—long awaited, fraught with speculation, and feverishly anticipated. Coincidentally, as Tony again settles into his office in the rear of the Bada Bing, Jurassic 5, on the heels of a busy three-year hiatus, readies their provocative fourth album, Feedback.
Emcees Chali 2na, Marc 7, Akil, Zaakir (Soup), and DJ/producer Nu-Mark are on the march once again, and on display are those qualities for which J5 is now world renowned—soulful harmonizing, innovative rhyme patterning, tag-team vocal exchanges, and first-rate turntable feats; a lyricism of the highest order aligned with intricate, sample-laden production that has yet to be surpassed in quality, ingenuity and consistency; and all of this in full view in what might be the best live show that popular music has going today, a rambunctious, five-man, rolling musical event.
Then just what is J5’s sound? Tellingly, critics have poked around and fumbled for appropriate language and revealing musical comparisons. Almost without exception they hearken back to the golden era of hip-hop music, urging readers to imagine “De La Soul rampaging through their parents' record collection with a 21st-century Run DMC on turntable duty” (The Guardian), and calling attention to Jurassic 5’s “old school/jammin'-in-the-park vibes from the '80s,” (The Washington Post) and to an “attitude similar to such old-school rappers such as Rakim, Public Enemy and KRS-One,” (The San Diego Union-Tribune). Certainly they are correct in gazing into the past for apt characterizations, as the residue and influence of a bygone era is clearly the group’s foundation...
...Rather than straying from the eclectic boom-bap sound that has become their signature, J5 has retained the kernel of that ideal and, with it in tow, charted new terrain. On Feedback, Nu-Mark’s singular influence is bolstered—he produced roughly half of the album—and an array of talented producers, among them Scott Storch, Salaam Remi and Exile, have been assembled. Feedback is not risk-averse. In fact, it may be that the group’s latest offering is more adventurous vis-à-vis their past work than those groundbreaking albums themselves. In an unusual twist J5 teams up with Dave Matthews for the first single, “Work It Out.” After touring with the legendary band, Jurassic 5 grew to know Matthews and identified aesthetic sensibilities similar to their own in his work. The culmination of which, vibrant notes and reflective lyrics by J5 coupled with the seductive crooning of Matthews, is a rewarding symbiosis and an intriguing introduction to Feedback.
The album succeeds by deftly shifting pace as J5 traverses the musical spectrum, countering the tempering influence of “Work it Out” with the bouncing rhythm of “Brown Girl,” as constructed by super-producer Scott Storch. In the same vein, Salaam Remi, the creative force behind massive hits from the Fugees, Nas, and countless others, steps in with “Radio,” a kind of synthesized throw back track interpolated with an outstanding hook performed in unison by the four emcees.
Here is Jurassic 5 at their best. The extraordinary Nu-Mark produced “Where We At” and “Future Sound” respectively feature a vocal bit from Mos Def and an infectious Root’s sample combined with the flawless back-of-forth flow of Soup and Akil. On the remarkable “Get It Together” Salaam Remi reappears with a piano-loop tied to rolling drums blessed by Akil batting leadoff, backed by Marc 7, who delivers a seamless verse, and then by an impressive Chali 2na performance, with Soup at the cleanup spot delivering a soulful finish.
And for the parting shot, as in past albums a moment of instrumental introspection is set aside and the reigns are passed to Nu-Mark. Having sharpened his sound with music on his own side-projects, Hands On and Blend Crafters, and additional production on the film Take the Lead, he conducts an admirable exit with “Canto De Ossanha.”
What is found in Feedback, musically and lyrically, is honesty and optimism prevailing over orthodoxy, boldness where complacency would suffice, and the poignancy of Jurassic 5’s opening salvo, The Jurassic 5 EP, captured and transformed to meet the demands of years accumulated and of a new milieu.