Dynamite Jive are pretty much one of a kind. In the annals of rap history, there have been very few guy-girl duos. Even less of this endangered species have written, produced, recorded and mixed everything themselves. That's exactly what this Southern California group does on their second album, "Mutated." Mixing off-beat concepts with spoken word, straight hip-hop, and everything in between, they have crafted an extremely unique record which is about as scattered and random as it gets.
"Patterneday" starts things off marvelously with a jumpy, playful beat and similar rhymes. Once Teemaree hits the mic following Tony J., though, it is clear that she is the inferior entertainer. Neither are superior verbalists, but Tony is much more assertive than his female counterpart. The balance between a forceful voice and a relatively meek one has worked in the past, but in this case Teemaree just needs to speak up more. This is especially necessary considering the song's subject matter, which is mostly focused on moving the crowd. Without a suitable vocal presence, she just sounds out of place.
The best tracks on "Mutated" are the uptempo ones. "Speed" and "Smoove" don't succeed because of the dreary, lethargic productions. The duo's work in the studio isn't exactly bad here, the sedated pace simply does not match with their respective styles. Given to other artists, the laid-back productions on this album would have been quite successful, but the two emcees of Dynamite Jive need something more bouncy to rhyme over. This much is clearly evident towards the end of the record. Following the misplaced "Not The Pain," a spoken word skit by Teemaree, is the excellent Reggae-tinged "Settle Down." Teemaree unveils an intriguing sing-song style that really seems to suit her better than rapping, and the duo constructs a great beat to rhyme over. "Count ‘Em" is just as nice, with an ill keyboard sample and throwback rhymes from Tony:
"Since the beginning back in '84 I've wanted more
Watching the b-boy on a hard wood overcrowded floor
Smelling the fresh paint of a newly done up piece of graf
Hearing some peep raps, some funny shit to make me laugh
The hands was blurry when the DJ made the records flash
And I battle fast to make sure that your ass won't leave with cash
Much respect, check it 1, 2 and I don't stop
Do what I do to get it through, Mutating hip-hop"
Tony has a great presence in the booth, and in most cases, his partner Teemaree complements him sufficiently. This is why the speedier songs are so much more successful. Tony, the better rapper of the group, is much less likeable over sluggish productions.
Unfortunately, there is such a variation from song to song that the record doesn't develop any forward motion. The duo will get your head nodding one minute, and follow it up with something such as the seemingly pointless "Skaryokee" skit. Some of the production is really creative and catchy, but there is a huge disparity between the best and worst songs. It's almost frustrating to listen to. The moments when they really seem to have nailed it are followed by surprisingly uninspired work.
The problem with "Mutated" is that it is such a mixed bag. There's one emcee who's worth hearing, and one who isn't. A handful of songs mesh into something enjoyable, but others have no luck, and the interludes are mostly pointless. At a sparse 11 tracks, counting skits, what is left is really just a slightly oversized EP. There are definite high points, but as a whole, the record sounds like it has been thrown together without regard for coherency. There's certainly a time and place for eclectic album structure and subject matter (see De La, the true originality), but in this case it just doesn't work. With so many peaks and valleys, it's clear that Dynamite Jive could have done better. I'm hoping they eventually do, because there's plenty to like about them.
Music Vibes: 6 of 10 Lyric Vibes: 6 of 10 TOTAL Vibes: 6 of 10
Originally posted: September 14, 2004