It’s an unfair comparison, but it’s inevitable. It’s like seeing the five-tool centerfielder and calling him the next Mays or the next Mantle. But when you create your music with live instruments in hip hop, people are going to compare you to The Roots. But let’s end the comparisons right there. Yes, Dujeous plays their music themselves, but no, “City Limits” is not their attempt at recreating “Things Fall Apart.” For the sake of this review, and to be fair to Dujeous, we’ll reserve the cornerstone releases to The Roots , and safely bet that no one will make the over-the-shoulder catch that Willie Mays somehow made so many Fall Classics ago.
More often than not, outfits like Dujeous, which champion eclectic sounds and progressive ideas, come off a bit contrived – perhaps trying too hard to milk the hippies and college audience. But make no mistakes about Dujeous, who not only live up to their own ambitions on “City Limits,” but have been a well-established entity on the music scene for some time now, having worked with ESPN, and films like Roc-A-Fella’s Paper Soldiers and Universal’s Blue Crush.
While a few tracks like the smoothed-out organs of “Drowsy” or the cool, Jazzy feel of “Spilt Milk” will undoubtedly remind some of that group from Philly, Dujeous masterfully carves their own niche with this release, showcasing some particularly stellar tracks, like the soulful single “Sometimes,” or the banging album opener “Just Once” – a call to strike while the proverbial iron is hot. Equally enjoyable is the upbeat, Latin/Reggae hybrid vibes of “Good Green,” which features the punchy trumpet of Dave Guy and the short strokes guitarist Taylor Rivelli. The horns and soul vocals soar again over the rolling bass on “Cake,” a track that might remind some of Outkast’s “Spottieottiedopalicious.”
As impressive as their song-writing is (the rapping is well above average, and the hooks are catchy), it may be the Dujeous’ musicianship that really helps make “City Limits” a winner. The live instrumentation offers a completely full sound that will truly knock your speakers – the drums pop hard and the bass is as thick as August air.
Having worked in the industry for ten years and having survived, presumably, with the various odd projects they’ve undertaken over that decade, “City Limits” is indeed long overdue (they’ve also released a couple of EPs). This release boasts a noticeably veteran-like level of quality and maturity, and though many artists make similar claims to the one in Dujeous’ press release – that they are “a multi-genre fusion of reggae, rock, jazz, and more” – few can actually back it up as well as this seven man outfit. Though MCs Mas D, Mojo and Rheturik struggle at times to keep up with the absolutely lush aural landscapes of their band, they are all rather smooth in their own right and certainly never hinder a track.
Released through Third Earth Music, it should come as no surprise (at least to some of us) that “City Limits” has such strong replay value. If I may add an editorial touch to the end of this review, I personally reviewed Roosevelt Franklin’s “Something’s Gotta Give” LP from 2003, which I found particularly impressive. Aside from Roosevelt Franklin, Third Earth also showcases the talents of some underground favorites like Science Fiction, Jean Grae (easily the best female MC out right now), and The Masterminds. Dujeous is as talented as any of these artists, and is an excellent addition to an already impressive roster.
There’s not much irony in the success of Dujeous’ “City Limits” – their fine work was long overdue to be harnessed into a full-length release – but, perhaps the title of the LP is ironic, because there are no foreseeable limits for this outfit. They’re not the next Roots, and they’re not trying to be. They’re Dujeous.