Juggaknots

Re:release

The Juggaknots' Re:release originally surfaced as a vinyl-only EP (called Clear Blue Skies) way back in 1995. The initial effort went unnoticed, so the group's three Bronx siblings -- Breezly Bruin, Buddy Slim, and the peripheral Queen Heroine -- fluffed it up a bit, remixing tracks and adding others. Even with eight years of work, though, much of the disc sounds like a demo, albeit by the best MCs you've never heard. The production is uncompromisingly grainy and midtempo -- the opposite of slick -- with the lyrics carrying most of the momentum.

The opener "Trouble Man" is the perfect soundtrack for the New York state of mind, including rhymes that ricochet across beats like bullets off slushy sidewalks. Over brisk drums and stormy piano riffs, couplets like "Your mind's blind if you say you haven't seen this/ I walk the fine line between insanity and genius" feel edgy without being overblown. Likewise, "Who Makes It Hot" and "Epiphany" offer synergy between spare rhythms and sharp braggadocio. The only song with truly dynamic production is "Romper Room," which, with its chunky soul-sample chorus, is as catchy as a ball.

By its nature, Re:release is a bit of an archaeological dig, with the freshest tracks at the top of the album. While these tunes offer long lines that can stretch across five bars at a time, the later cuts revisit the well-worn cadences and inflections of the early '90s. All, however, are unified by a street-level hunger and intelligence. This is the kind of low-budget find that makes you think there must be tons of music like it out there -- but there's just not. Cherish this diamond in the rough.

 
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