Quiet week for the #GuelphMusicClub.
Despite my late entry, it appears I am the first (ONLY?) to submit for the latest topic.
Is this a sign of things to come or the result of the hectic summer many of us were predicting?
Preferably, the latter.
With Hillside (@HillsideFest) having just wrapped up, MusicLives (@MusicLivesCA) making the transition to print, and myself preparing for my cousin’s upcoming wedding, I can’t even begin to imagine how busy everyone else must be.
‘Tis the season.
I just hope everyone is having some fun as we enjoy the last of the dog days.
We will see you all back soon, no doubt!
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Therein lies the rub this time around.
It was actually trickier to nail down my favourite here than I had originally presumed.
Clearly, I was far from being alone in that sense!
My first instinct was to focus upon the gods on Earth known as the Isley Brothers.
By coincidence, I had the opportunity to see them in the live setting exactly 10 years ago from today’s date at SARSStock.
FYI, they were masterful.
Then, I was thinking about bestowing the virtues of Robert and Dean DeLeo, two players who are – due to a lifetime of being confined within the walls of vanilla-rock – often overlooked and subsequently underrated in regards to their above-average songwriting and production skills.
Ultimately, I chose to nix that idea because of their willingness to openly associate themselves with this guy:
But, in the end (it doesn’t even matter!?), I always prefer to shine a light on some of the lesser-knowns.
That’s why I decided to center this blog post on one of my fave rap groups..
The Juggs (@juggaknots) are an underground rap crew hailing out of NYC.
Upon their formation in the early 90s, they primarily consisted of brothers Kevin and Paul Smith, otherwise known as Buddy Slim (producer) and Breezly Brewin’ (MC/producer), respectively.
The project resulted in one of the most profound and compelling releases of the 90s.
Breeze Brewin’, as he would come to be known, laces the record with a razor-sharp wit and thought-provoking lyrics that are spit with an effortless and conversational flow.
He is largely devoid of the stereotypical rap braggadocio and instead, often chooses to humbly reflect upon sociopolitical issues that affect his own community and beyond.
For instance, take the title track in which Breeze raps from the point of view of the white son who falls in love with a black woman and due to this, discovers his father is a racist bigot:
That being said, the record is peppered with a lot of great humour and is about as far as it gets from being preachy and militant.
The EP didn’t really get its due props until it was re-packaged with 11 extra tracks and re-released in 2003 as Clear Blue Skies, Re:Release.
Given that the original release is long out of print, if you would like to hear Clear Blue Skies as it was originally sequenced, take your Re:Release copy and listen in the following order: 1, 2, 3, 11, 5, 9, 7, 20, 16.
Here’s another track that showcases the grimier side of early Juggaknots:
And Buddy Slim cannot be given enough acclaim for his beat work here.
The soundscapes are dark, dusty, and soulful, adding just enough mood and grit to make the words resonate that much further.
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It always seemed like Breeze was poised to break out.
His lyricism had always been next-level and he clearly garnered the respect of his peers.
Not only was he a member of two underground super-groups – one known as the Indelible MC’s, the other being the Weathermen – but he also managed to land the lead role in Prince Paul‘s (@DJPrincePaul) “hip-hopera” masterpiece, A Prince Among Thieves,which is, in my opinion, perhaps the greatest concept album ever made in the history of hip-hop.
Here’s a taste of all three:
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In spite of these accomplishments, the Juggaknots remain a niche / “in-the-know” indie rap crew.
After a decade-long layoff between albums, they released their sophomore LP, Use Your Confusion, in 2006.
They also upped the sibling-quotient with this record, adding their sister Peridot Smith aka Queen Herawin as an official member of the group / 2nd MC.
Use Your Confusion has aged gracefully, in my opinion.
As mentioned previously, the respect the group commands is quite apparent through the tracklisting alone, as they managed to acquire features from icons such as Slick Rick (@iamSlickRick), Sadat X (@SadatX) of Brand Nubian, and Nine, among others.
There are also a few songs that show how they were again, ever-so-slightly ahead of their time.
The title track works as a fine example of this, with the production sounding like something the majority of rap has only begun to experiment with:
Using the 10-year rule, I am really hoping the ‘Knots return in 2016 with some fresh lava.
These days, the crew is quite passive with the music, as they all double as full-time school teachers.
I also wanted to acknowledge the elusive 4th member of the squad, DJ Boo. I have heard whispers that he is also a relative, perhaps a cousin, but that cannot be confirmed.
In any case, there is no question that the Juggaknots are the ultimate when it comes to sibling rap crews.