It’s hard to believe that Jurassic 5 has been in the game for almost a decade now, since their 12-inch debut on Blunt Records around 1997 or so. The “leaders of the old school” have gone through some changes since their leap into the major leagues, their sound slowly evolving from throwback/backpack to a friendlier, gentler J5. Evidence of the changes first began on Power In Numbers, boasting a collaboration with Nelly Furtado on “Thin Line” and a few slightly watered down songs like “Hey”. Regardless of these minor gripes, their sophomore effort was a solid follow-up to Quality Control. With Feedback, the group loses a member - backbone producer Cut Chemist - employing Nu-Mark to handle the majority of the production, among a few outside producers like Scott Storch and Exile.
It’s always tough on a group when it loses one of its key members, and the absence of Cut Chemist on Feedback is definitely evident. It’s unclear whether Cut left the group because of their choice to take their music in a more commercially viable direction, or if they took it there as a result of his leaving. Either way, Feedback is littered with poor attempts at polishing the J5 sound, but still keeps the faith with some of its deeper album cuts.
The album begins with the piano driven “Back For You”, which seems to suggest that nothing has changed, as the group reintroduces itself to the audience. However when the 808 bass of “Radio” first kicks in, the listener is left bewildered at J5′s choice of crisp production in exchange for their usually more hardcore boom-bap - despite the fact that the song is a dope throwback to early L.A. hip-hop. However, longtime listeners will be a little less forgiving at what comes next, the Scott Storch produced “Brown Girl”, which drowns itself in syrupy hook by convenient labelmates Brick and Lace. “In The House” is another flashback song, however unlike their usual material, it fails to fuse the styles of new and old, and just ends up sounding dated (extra points are also taken off for interpolating “Last Night A DJ Saved My Life”). The Al Green sampled “Baby Please” tries the fans patience as the J5 emcees exercise their double-time flow, but once “Work It Out” hits, the dedicated J5 listener feels completely dissed. Here, everything Jurassic 5 has accomplished thus far is seemingly undone in an excruciating four-minute spectacle that teams them up with Dave Matthews Band in a lame attempt to reach the Shreck audience.
But all is not lost. After this point, the album redeems itself with a series of solid songs that carry on the J5 tradition, even if it’s not quite as tight without Cut. The introspective “Where We At” brings things back to basics, as the four emcees ponder their place in the game, over hard hitting drums and added narration from Mos Def. “Get It Together” follows suit, while “Future Sound” helps instill some faith back into the crew. By the time the incredible collaboration with The Dap Kings, “Red Hot”, hits, you are almost forgiving of the mistakes made on the first half of the record. Almost.
The last two vocal tracks “Turn It Out” and “End Up Like This” (drawing inspiration from P.M. Dawn?) aren’t quite as inspiring as some the others here, but at the same time aren’t nearly as insulting either. Nu-Mark closes things out with “Canto De Ossanha”, an instrumental tour-de-force of Latin breaks - which is good, but honestly misses the extra flavor that Cut Chemist would usually add to it.
Feedback isn’t a complete, Black Eyed Peas-like fall from grace, but the wounds it causes to the faithful follower of J5 cut deep. It’s obvious that the crew are overworked and underpaid, hence the sacrifices made to their sound here. We understand, but it doesn’t mean we have to like it. If Cut Chemist doesn’t return for the next outing, expect that Chali 2na solo album sooner than you think.
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