The members of Jurassic 5 have gotten a lot of mileage out of a persecution complex as big as a right-wing Christian’s who really thinks Christmas is under attack. They profess to represent for old-school acts such as the Cold Crush Brothers, who were more interested in vocal flow than the coke trade and banging bitches, two of today’s hottest topics. Therefore, they see their enemies as twofold. There are those less-talented rap groups that have to sink into trading in those base subjects, and so are constantly hating on J5 for their clean lyrical superiority. Then there are the mainstream radio stations so enthralled by violent, risky rapping personas that they don’t have space on their rotations for these good guys from South Central Los Angeles.
With all that weight on their shoulders, the members of Jurassic 5 was only going to trudge so far. Luckily, on Feedback, they’ve mainly left fighting that good fight behind, focusing instead on the other thing they do really, really well: fun, poppy jams that form the perfect soundtrack for a summer day’s block party.
Jurassic 5’s name is finally accurate; Cut Chemist has left the group to focus on solo work. Left behind the boards is DJ Nu-Mark, who handles production on most tracks. On opener “Back 4 U” and later track “Where We At,” he puts ragtime piano lines under the four emcees’ flow. “In the House” is all ’80s robotic. Elsewhere, Nu-Mark gets playful with his sampling. “Future Sound” pulls from both Nilson’s and Three Dog Night’s versions of “One,” and “Red Hot” makes good use of a Dap Kings guitar sample that wouldn’t be out of place on a ’60s Bond soundtrack.
Other producers take over on a few other tunes. Someone calling himself Salaamremi.com handles “Radio,” “Get It Together,” and “End Up Like This,” the last two employing Marvin Gaye samples. Smartly, J5 lets Scott Storch get next to only one track, “Brown Girl.” No surprise that it’s the clubbiest, airiest tune here, made so by cooing backing female vocals from Brick and Lace.
So why all this talk of the music but not of the lyrics? Well, even though the four emcees have mostly left the woe-is-us shtick behind, it doesn’t mean they’ve replaced it with anything else of much substance. They’re still mad at other rappers for their love of guns and drugs (“Where We At”) and ghetto girls having babies for welfare checks (“Baby Please”). Elsewhere they take a more peaceful approach to preaching. And then there’s the abomination that is “Work it Out,” featuring guests — wait for it — the Dave Matthews Band. Feeble.
In the future, the guys in Jurassic 5 need to do a better job picking their friends and their song subjects.