10 February, 2011@10:02 am
Long ago, MCA solicited a 12″ single for Black Thought called “Hardware”, produced by DJ Krush, suggesting that this was the first single from his “forthcoming” solo album Masterpiece Theatre. While the record was not a “hit” in a hit-defining industry, heads loved it and begged for the album’s release. Eventually we all came to the realization that Black Thought’s solo album wasn’t happening, and just found comfort in the fact that The Roots would drop new albums every 365 days or so.
Enter the Money Making Jam Boys – an offshoot project headed by Black Thought and Dice Raw, with up and coming emcees Truck North, P.O.R.N., and S.T.S., all of whom joined The Roots on their 2010 How I Got Over LP. Released as a free, downloadable project, the MMJB takes Thought and company outside of the live-instrument element, letting them show off over raw, unadulterated, dusty beats crafted from drum machines and samples. While not a solo album from Thought, perhaps this is a bit what it might have sounded like.
The formula here is pretty straight-forward. They never aim to satisfy the industry’s current definition of “hot”, instead they pretty much just hop on top of a collection of raw beats, running it down the line and just doing what comes naturally. The abrasive opener “500 Horses” finds the crew over a wicked Frank Knuckles track, while DJ Jazzy Jeff gets creative on the cut for the hook. The Khari Ferrari produced, “Tear It Down” follows, as S.T.S. opens the track with a show-stopping flow that allows him to stand confidently next to his older peers. This leads directly into the cinematic “Judgment Day”, which segues in perfectly, thanks to Mick Boogie and Terry Urban’s mixing, matching the two tracks up of the same key.
There’s some nice homages to the days of old included herein. “Coming Out Hard” creatively samples drums and breaks usually credited to Eric B & Rakim or Slick Rick, but sounding completely original in execution. “Philadelphia Zoo” finds Black Thought channeling O.D.B. in this loose-knit cover of it’s Brooklyn counterpart, over a terrorizing beat reminiscent of the pre-G-Funk gangster rap era. The most obvious of these however is the cover of Nice ‘N Smooth’s “No Delaying” (here called “We Ain’t Playing”), where Black Thought brags “Kickin’ wicked rhymes like a fortune teller, ’95 I made the word Illadelph up.”
The faults are few and far in between. Nothing wrong with the uptempo, breezy “Here You Say”, although it has a hard time fitting in with the rest of the album’s raw production. The same can be said for the super-soft “Money Make The World Go Round”, a mellowed out, vocal driven track that feels strange among the rest of the mix.
In a word, The Prestige succeeds, as it doesn’t attempt to go for radio play and is unspoiled by industry evils. This is the type of music that these cats ultimately want to make, without having to worry about the pressures of an imposing record label or rapidly changing musical trends. Jam on it.
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