Wednesday, February 9, 2011

February 9: Jurassic 5, "A Day At The Races"

Artist: Jurassic 5
Song: "A Day At The Races"
Album: Power In Numbers
Year: 2002

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As the 1990's progressed, it was almost tragic to watch the once proud world of hip-hop music devolve into a sea of uninspiring, copycat wannabe gangsters.  The formula of heavy bass and overly-indulgent rhymes about just "how much money and how many women you have" quickly tuned off many life-long hip-hop fans, and it was due to these circumstances that an entirely new movement began to rise within the community.  Later labeled as "conscious" or "alternative" rap, artists like Mos Def and The Roots began to quickly gain a following, as their unique blend of music and "real" rhyming was a welcome change to many.  Yet along with these groups, one rose far above the rest, and though they had been performing for more than half a decade before their first EP was released, there are few groups that can compare to the power of Los Angeles, California's Jurassic 5.  That EP was quickly hailed as an instant classic, and the group returned two years later with their full length debut, Quality Control.  This album also received great accolades, as the multi-emcee attack and dual-DJ sound makes the group absolutely beyond compare.  With this in mind, it is almost unthinkable that the group found a way to release even more impressive music, and this is exactly what one can find in Jurassic 5's brilliant 2002 song, "A Day At The Races."

Though there is no question that Jurassic 5's 2002 release, Power In Numbers, was far more produced than their previous efforts, this turns out to be a good thing, as they come across as far more mature and as intelligent as ever.  The moment that "A Day At The Races" begins, it instantly captures the listener with its fast-paced, head-bobbing sound, and this proves that even with a more complete and robust musical backing, the group retains their personality, as well as their power.  The tandem of DJ Nu-Mark and Cut Chemist rarely sounded better than they do here, and though it does not display their turntable talents as much as other Jurassic 5 tracks, the beat and melody they create here is without question one of their finest.  Based around a sample from David Axelrod's, "Urizen," the song quickly establishes a fantastic groove and rhythm, and "A Day At The Races" retains a very "old school" feel as well, making it one of the most outright enjoyable hip-hop tracks of all time.  The sense of movement that the duo create is fantastic, and it is this aspect that easily captures the complete attention of every listener, and it is impossible to listen to this song without a smile.  It is this response that in many ways defines Jurassic 5, as while they often bring deep meaning to their lyrics, there is always a sense that all of the performers love what they do, and this positive mood can be easily felt throughout "A Day At The Races."

While in most cases, once there is more than two emcees, a track becomes cluttered, part of the uniqueness behind Jurassic 5 is the brilliant way in which the four rappers are able to interact and play off of one another.  With each member having a very distinctive voice and rhyme pattern, it is often amazing to hear how the different styles manage to fit together with such perfection.  "A Day At The Races" is no different, yet on this track, there are a stagger six emcees at work, as the group is joined by Percy P and the legendary Big Daddy Kane.  These two seamlessly slide into the song, and Kane's presence alone gives the song and group a massive amount of "street cred," though one can easily make the case that they did not need any by this point.  Regardless, Kane sounds as good as ever, and the way in which his rhyme blends with the rest of the group is a perfect example of how Jurassic 5 is able to fuse together old school and new school.  The team of Akil, Zaakir, Chali 2na, and Marc 7 are all in top form on "A Day At The Races," and due to the diverse sound in their voices, as well as the content of their rhymes, it is easy for anyone to pick out a "favorite" part of the song.  However, Marc 7 largely sums up the groups' approach when he delivers the lines, "...back and forth I spit knowl' and toss, it's time to floss/my verbal affirmation is to always go off/when syllables slide you'll be enjoyin' the vibe, when consider it pride, it's J5..."  Bringing a fantastic speed, yet amazing vocal clarity, along with a range in sound and style, there are few songs from any point in hip-hop history that are as outright enjoyable as one finds in Jurassic 5's, "A Day At The Races."

In retrospect, one can argue that Power In Numbers shows the group at their high-point, as Jurassic 5 would call it quits a few years later.  However, the catalog that the group left behind is without question one of the most impressive in music history, and Jurassic 5 played a vital role in the reemergence of "real" hip-hop music.  Even almost a decade after the album was released, the songs still jump off of the record and remain far superior to almost everything that is being release in the current hip-hop scene, and this longevity is a testament to the overall talent within all of the members of Jurassic 5.  With "A Day At The Races," the group puts on display all of their talents and influences, and there are few examples from any point in hip-hop history that show how to perfectly blend together old school and new school, along with deploying one of the funkiest, yet most straightforward musical creations.  It is perhaps Jurassic 5's ability to make so much out of things that seem so simple that make the group so intriguing, and they remain one of the few acts from any genre that can boast a flawless recorded catalog.  Though the production work on Power In Numbers is a bit more reserved than their previous efforts, this allows more room for the emcees to shine, and one can quickly understand why the four vocalists of Jurassic 5 are held in such high regard by experiencing their magnificent 2002 song, "A Day At The Races."

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