Forgot about Dre? How could we. But [a]Jurassic 5[/a] probably didn’t care a damn for him in the first place.
While Dre and the boys ‘n the South Central hood glorified a culture of guns, bitches and money, the crews that were to become [a]Jurassic 5[/a] were hanging at South Central’s other battleground: open mic nights and block parties. There, hip-hop wasn’t just a ghoulish B-movie script but a quest to hone skills and have fun; to forge links with other hip-hop heads instead of blowing ‘niggaz’ away. And it was about music: rhyming and cutting-up to make uplifting sounds, as vintage R&B and soul had done for previous generations.
Fast-forward ten years and the two strains of LA hip-hop continue to coexist in tension. Gangsta rap has won the day, in terms of money (and guns, and bitches): Dre‘s delinquent ward Eminem straddles charts like an incontinent pre-teen. But hip-hop’s conscious underground is enjoying a resurgence, with new voices like People Under The Stairs, Dilated Peoples and Infesticons joining older acts like The Roots, The Pharcyde and [a]Jurassic 5[/a] in representing the great swathes of hip-hop experience not covered by the gangstas or the playas. Real life, as opposed to thug life.
So ‘Quality Control’ – J5‘s second album – should be a celebration of hip-hop’s new vigour. The trouble is, though, not only does it fail to pistol-whip you with Jerry Springer sensationalism, it’s also not as good as their last one. Tracks like ‘Lausd’ and ‘Contribution’ may take up where ‘Jurassic 5’ left off: impeccable rhymes about the emptiness of stardom and a challenge to do good rather than evil. The feelgood vibes, too, remain in place, with barbershop quartets on hand to “bee da dee boo” up ‘The Influence’. But despite the fluid interplay of the four MCs and J5‘s evolving musicality, ‘Quality Control’ lacks the singalong pop immediacy of ‘Jurassic 5’. And despite ‘Contact’s’ array of skills, world-beating DJs Cut Chemist and Nu-Mark seem wasted, as overt turntablism gives way to sampling and jazzy interludes.
Quality then. But it’s not the old-skool classic we’d hoped for. And it won’t make anyone forget about Dre.