DJ Jazzy Jeff
Return Of The Magnificent
Nowadays, it seems like the formula to make a "hot" album is to have a few of the big-name producers on your album: Scott Storch, Kanye, and Swizz Beatz. It's an interesting formula, as Storch is nothing but a mini-Dre, Kanye only saves the good beats for himself and Common, and Swizz averages about one nice beat a year. Considering that the formula seems to be working less and less (check Game's sales compared to his first album), why has no one peeped talent elsewhere? One would have to no further than Philly, the hometown of Jeffrey Townes - better known as Jazzy Jeff.
Five years since the dope The Magnificent - and only two years removed from the Live 8 performance in Philly with the Fresh Prince himself - the Grammy award-winning producer/DJ is still on his grind. Any questions concerning relevance to hip hop should be immediately answered by who Jeff got on this album. The guest list is stupid nice: Rhymefest, Jean Grae, Big Daddy Kane, Method Man, CL Smooth and more.
The album plays through as a bit of a story, with Jazz having to take a long drive. Usually skits detract from an album, but these are just damn funny. Give them a listen, as they're full of self-deprecating humor. It goes well with the almost modest tone of the album. This album is no pretension; there's no air of self-importance. The first track, "Hip Hop," is a perfect example of this, as Twone Gabz breaks it down over a laid-back musical backdrop: "Now how they gonna say I ain't real/'less I'm pulling triggers or gun play/Cuz I ain't hustlin' or pushin' drugs or money?/ I think I'm goin about the music the wrong way/Cuz at the end of the day, guns don't make beats/Just 'cuz you're from the hood, Charlie, don't make you street."
"Let Me Hear U Clap" with P.O.S. continues the laid-back vibe over some light piano keys, and "Run That Back" follows suit, but with Eshon Burgundy and Black Ice spitting harder rhymes. A few tracks ahead is "Jeff N Fess," featuring Rhymefest. The beat is tailor-made to fit Rhymefest's strong mic presence, but it's essentially the same as Gang Starr's "Manifest" (word to J-23).
"Supa Jean" is dope, as Jean Grae portrays the club scene immaculately (even if it is again flipping familiar samples, "Potholes In My Lawn" and others). Unfortunately, the song is out of place, especially when it's followed by Big Daddy Kane's "The Garden." The song is a bit of a disappointment, as it conjures up memories of the latter-day, R&B Kane. The beat is too soft, and it's reminiscent of one of those awkward MTV "All-Star" songs where the message of the song is lost due to how preachy it is.
Things get back on track with "Hold It Down," which has Method Man spitting some heat: "I wrote a 16 and threw it in a tek/Shootin' game at these fools now for foolin' with a vet, yeah/It's Mr. Mef really now who did you expect?/Another shit-talkin' emcee with booty on his breath?" The track isn't overly hard, but much more satisfying than the past few tracks, as it is up-tempo, and the beat knocks a little harder.
"All I Know" continues the departure from the first half of the album, as Jazz takes CL Smooth with him out to space with a very "out there" beat. CL's rhymes complement the beat perfectly, and make it one of the standout cuts on the album. "My Soul Ain't For Sale" is a throwaway track, though "Come On" quickly remedies that. The album closes out with "Brand New Funk 2K7," which at first seems like an unnecessary addition until Peedi Peedi rips the track with a silly-ass flow.
Overall, The Return of the Magnificent is filled with generally solid rhymes and beats, with flashes of brilliance. If you do like Jeff and refrain from taking yourself too seriously while listening to this, you'll enjoy it for what it is. Not "backpacker," not "gangsta," not "R&B." Just a collection of some pretty choice cuts.