Jneiro Jarel, the mastermind behind Philadelphia’s latest addition to the hip-hop pantheon, is in something of a rare state when Clash gets him on the blower. It’s that old familiar tale: one drink on a Friday night and suddenly it’s 6am and you realise you’ve been chatting up a rather fetching lamp stand for the last few hours…
Still, a bastard behind the eyes isn’t enough to stop the eloquent producer and MC from waxing lyrical about ‘Craft Of The Lost Art’, the full-length follow-up to the sonically inventive teaser EP, ‘Blue Experience’. The LP is full of the sonic twists and turns that made its precursor such a cracking listen. Fluid beats bump along against psychedelic keys and throbbing bass lines, while a host of rappers (including one MF Doom) contribute sugar-spun flows. The woozy, narcoleptic feeling of the record calls to mind Madlib’s spaced-out joints for Stones Throw. It’s rather lovely.
“an album left in a treasure chest underwater.”
Hold up, though: Shape Of Broad Minds isn’t simply biting the Cali underground. “My influences are from all over the place,” says Jarel in a chocolaty drawl. “I’m not making a West Coast sound; I’m just making hip-hop I love. I’m inspired by all sorts of music – Steely Dan, Miles Davis, Public Enemy, Outkast… I used to hang out with TV On The Radio, they introduced me to good rock music like Led Zeppelin…”
Unpicking the layers of sound on these dense tracks reveals how much the group have absorbed and reconstituted. Jarel and right-hand man Jawwaad rinse in jazz piano, yawling distorted guitars, dusty Blaxploitation grooves and even 80’s new wave. Jarel’s eclectic take on the genre is rooted in his beginnings as an MC. “I was forced into hip-hop. When I started out rhyming, producers couldn’t bring out the best in me, so I started sampling breaks and making loops with everything I liked, including soap opera music! I was living it, making it happen. Now… I’ve just kept doing it.”
The underpinning theme of the album is somehow at odds with the enthusiasm Jarel exudes, and the sense of glee you get when listening to ‘Craft Of The Lost Art’’s lovingly crafted tracks. The album came out of a “deep depression. I’d had a bad year and felt really low, like I was drowning, so I built the album around that. You can hear it on ‘Solo Underwater’: It’s full of my stress. It’s was a letter to myself, to encourage myself.”
Jarel sees his latest work as “an album left in a treasure chest underwater.” If Davy Jones’ locker puts the wind up you, get a taster by hitting up his MySpace. We say you’d be well advised to dive down into Shape Of Broad Minds’ briny depths to check out this saline-soaked beauty: it’s as full of riches as any pirate’s stash of gold dubloons.