Shape of Broad Minds – Craft of the Lost Art (Lex/Inertia)

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Shape of Broad Minds is Jneiro Jarel’ latest project, following last year’ Beat Journey as Dr Who Dat?, both out on London’ Lex Records. The album is accompanied by rap supergroup rhetoric and the usual multiple alias mumbo jumbo, but it’s undoubtedly his record, with Houston MC, Jawaad, chiming in here and there. There is plenty of collaboration though; MF Doom, Lil Sci, Stacy Epps, Deborah Jordan, Count Bass D, and the mixing skills of Dave Cooley are all on board.

I have to get the Madlib and J Dilla comparison out of the way, because they’re obvious points of reference. But moving on quickly, this is I think a hugely successful album, which for me works on several levels. The beats stomp hard, but there’ always something else going on, sheets of sound, dense layers of noise filling up the spectrum, and barely audible samples set way back, through which the drums kind of pulse. The vocals don’ sit on top like a normal Hip-Hop mix, they’re lower, becoming an element in a much larger whole. This approach to mixing, most notably on ‘Light Years Away’, ‘Buddafly Away’, ‘Beast from the East’, and ‘So Much (chaos)’, is I think what sets Jarel apart from other comparable producers. Buddafly Away in particular starts with an enormous jack hammer kick, snare and castanets, but everything quickly gets absorbed in a haze of synths, descending keys, and disembodied wailing; with Jarel rapping through all this, culminating in a moment of earnestness; “this comes from the depths of me, this is really me”. The production makes for a very immersive listening experience, and it’s not about razor sharp edits, or looped funk records, there’ something much more intriguing happening – the density fills up your ears, forcing you to almost traverse the sound. Though there are lighter moments too, and plenty of jazz homage.

All up it’s forward thinking, soulful, honest, hip hop that has been in high rotation around here for several weeks. Highly recommended.

Tom Smith

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