Filed under: Album Reviews
It doesn’t take much thought for me to realise that I am essentially a music addict. Through the purchasing of CDs and with the revelation of hip hop blogs, I am in the enviable position of simply having too much of it on my hands: there are literally not enough hours in the day to listen to everything that I acquire with the due care and attention that I would ideally like to. The upshot of this is that I regularly buy albums, give them a quick listen and then do one of three things. If it instantly grabs me, it will stay in rotation for a period of time that equates to how much I like it and in all probability I will dip in and out of it as the years pass by. If I don’t like it, it simply goes up on the shelves with the rest of my ever-increasing collection and may or may not see the light of day again for a significant period of time. Finally, and perhaps best of all, there are occasionally albums that I listen to and enjoy, but for whatever reason, I do not fully appreciate their greatness at the time and it is only at a later date that I am struck by their true quality.
Da King & I’s ‘Contemporary Jeep Music’ is a perfect example of an album that falls into this latter category of my music-listening habits, and has ultimately become one of my favourite albums of the era combining slammin’ production with masterful wordplay that perhaps contradicts the image of the band presented by the album artwork and title: this is fun, uplifting, positive, party hip hop at its absolute finest.
The crew is made up of MC Izzy and DJ Majesty and although Izzy makes some contribution on the boards, the majority of the beats are produced by Majesty. Released in ’93, the album is horn heavy, featuring squealing saxophones and trumpets that root this firmly in the early ’90s era. However, there is a subtlety to the beat crafting here that takes it beyond the simple drums and loops formula. With each track, various samples come and go throughout four, eight and sixteen bar sections, seamlessly weaved into the compositions to create a highly engaging sonic landscape. The marvel of the album is that these transitions do not feel forced, each coming at exactly the right moment in time to keep your head noddin’ and the smile plastered firmly across your face. It is a signifier of the work’s brilliance that all too often I find myself reaching for the rewind button as a track ends: at times, I feel like I just can’t get enough of it. Just check out ‘Mr. All That’ and ‘Let’s Take A Trip’ and you’ll see what I mean.
Incredibly, MC Izzy is more than up to the task of matching the beats with his skills on the mic. The subject content here is varied, swinging between more reflective numbers like ‘Tears’ where Izzy details the trials and tribulations of lost love with heart-warming honesty all the way through to straight up braggin’ verses such as those found on ‘Flip Da Script’. His uptempo delivery is highly accomplished, splattered with internal rhymes and complex rhythmical patterns that carry the listener along the paths of his intricately spun narratives. Perhaps one of the tracks that captivates me most is the album closer ‘What’s Up Doc’ which takes the standard ‘shouts’ track to another level:
I give thanks to my Pops for being around,
Used to be seeing a frown when I let him down,
But on this day I apologise,
I’m 20 so I don’t see things through a child’s eyes,
I was rough but I wasn’t bad,
I had more of a relationship with my Mum than with my Dad,
‘Cos I was used to seeing Daddy stressed,
Which means that I wasn’t seeing Daddy’s best,
If I could turn the clock back ten years I would,
I guess it was for my own good,
‘Cos I believe that God gives you what you can stand,
You’re only in training to be a better man,
I thank God for my loving family and I plan to be
A family man myself, what else, check it,
When I blow up, my boys blow up,
I ain’t selfish, thinking of yourself you better grow up
And get off that foul mentality…
Far from coming across as corny, these lines feel so genuine and heartfelt that I would challenge anybody to resist their charms. In a genre that is all too often associated with the darker sides of ghetto existence, Izzy makes you bop your head and feel warm inside with wonderful eloquence, steering well clear of the stereotypical gangsterisms that were beginning to take a firm hold of hip hop during this period. At the ripe old age of 20, the maturity and fun that he brings to the album are invaluable, and help to set it apart from other works released during the second half of golden era rap.
I could honestly rant and rave about this album until the cows come home, but the bottom line is that ‘Contemporary Jeep Music’ comes highly recommended here at From Da Bricks. Unfortunately, this was the only output by the crew save a few production credits scattered here and there, but I like to think that Izzy and Majesty may have fulfilled their dreams of comfortable and soul-enriching family life and look back on their time in hip hop with happiness and nostalgia. What they have left behind is a demonstration of how wonderful, uplifting and musically creative hip hop can be, and I know that this is an album that I will continue to enjoy for many years to come. I can only hope that it brings you the same amount of joy that it has brought me: check it.