JUGGAKNOTS - Re:Release (Clear Blue Skies)
The Juggaknots are hip-hop's best kept secret. Some discovered them by 1999, thanks to their proximity with the Weathermen, or to Breezly Brewin's contribution to A Prince Amongst Thieves, a concept album from Prince Paul. Some others, through the incandescent "The Fire in Which you Burn", learned that the band was part of the Indelible Emcees collective, along with Company Flow and J-Treds. And some others knew that the producer Buddy Slim (a.k.a. Fever the Kid, or BMS), the rapper Breezly Brewin (a.k.a. The Brewin) – and the femcee Heroine (a.k.a. Queen Herawin), not a permanent member – had released a fantastic record in 1996, the second album on Fondle'em after the Cenobites full-length, soon to become one of the most expensive vinyl records on the underground market.
Fondle'em / Third Earth :: 1996 / 2003 :: buy this record
But for most others, the key year was 2003, when the album was rereleased on Third Earth, the label of the Masterminds. Retitled Re:Release, and comprising 11 additional tracks, this augmented version deserves being placed next to the absolute underground classic Funcrusher Plus. Less original and less visionary that their friends' masterpiece, it was nonetheless excellent, sober and eloquent. Buddy Slim's beats were fully aligned with their times: they were the archetypical jazz rap or boom bap from the 90's. But they were much more than just lazy loops. The very first track, "Trouble Man", would prove this, when sampling in a striking way the first few notes of John Coltrane's "My Favorite Things". Same went with the rhythm changes on "Romper Room", and the torpid piano on "Loosifa".
The lyrics and flow of Breeze were exactly in the same mood: abrupt, but subtle and nuanced. The album had plenty of songs, especially diss tracks, where the MC displayed his verbal dexterity, like with "Trouble Man", "Epiphany", and "Up at the Stretch Armstrong WKCR Radio Show". But the key track there was "Clear Blue Skies". Its two versions were a full demonstration of the rapper's writing talents. This song was actually the fictive dialogue between a White man, and his son, about the latter's Black girlfriend. Through it, Breeze analyzed racism, but instead of just condemning it, the rapper observed in details what was at its very foundation: a huge fear of being downgraded, and losing one's social position.
Breeze was never preachy, or too direct. His subject matters were approached with nuances and care, through stories, like with "Loosifa", which took place in a maternity and talked about violence, abortion, and narcotics. Breezly Brewin was smarter than others, he gave an additional and decisive flavor to this dark hip-hop gem, to this indispensable record, to this missing link between New-York mid-90's street rap, and what indie hip-hop would turn into, by the end of the decade.
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