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by Andreas Hale
5 October, 2006@12:00 am
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    J Rawls is one helluva producer. Unfortunately, in this day and age of Hip Hop, a producer the caliber of Rawls goes unappreciated. From his work with J Sands on Lone Catalyst projects to some of his phenomenal work on BlackStar’s “Brown Skin Lady”, Rawls has been known to craft beautiful soundscapes. But there comes a time in every truly great producer’s musical life that one would get rather bored with Hip-Hop and would like to try other things. Sure, Rawls has given us soul, but he has yet to give us his interpretation of “jazzhop” and with that comes his latest album The Liquid Crystal Project.

    What J Rawls has done with The Liquid Crystal Project is put together a band to create a jazz and hip hop fusion. As Rawls states in his linear notes -”This is something for the thirty-something cats that yearn for a more mature music.” So right up front, if you are looking for something that you would catch on your local radio station then you probably are in the wrong place. But if you have an open mind then you may find this project a welcome vibe to offset the tedious playlists blasted in your face on a daily basis.

   The album lifts off with “The D E Effect” and although it sounds like the perfect opening theme song for a jazzy Price is Right, it merely underscores what’s about to come. Rawls directs traffic here and his ear for good music is in the right place. Joints like “Remember When” coast along at a groovy pace as the light synths and sparse Fender Rhodes arrangements wrap around a cool sax demonstration. The mature cool out session continues with the breezy “Simple Game Plan” and the exceptional “Infancy”.

   Rawls also does well by paying homage to some of his favorite artists.  By utilizing the same sample that Jay Dee molded into Slum Village’s “Players”, Rawls constructs his own mellow interpretation of the track with “A Tribute To Dilla”. Flutes bound around beautifully as Rawls and band make this work sound like something that could be found in coffee shops around the globe.  Rawls really takes it to the next level with “A Tribute To Troy” where Rawls takes that classic Pete Rock horn melody and surrounds it with beautiful keys and crisp drums. As the original melody melts into its own groove, one can’t help but to appreciate Rawls ear for good music and making sure that he does it justice.

   The Liquid Crystal Project is definitely a next level work for J Rawls. With the ever saturated world of Hip Hop producers, Rawls figures that he has to do something that separates him from the dreary and monotonous tracks that layer Hip Hop today. It’s a significant, yet effective, departure from radio and is a perfect backdrop for all those who like their Hip Hop a little grown up.

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