Ahh yes…remember when you were just a young, suspender-laden, boy sitting on the rickety front porch of your Grandfolks rural home tippin’ back some of Gran’Dad’s Nerve Tonic? Me neither. That is just the kind of goofy style that Baje One and DJ Snafu (of Junk Science) present to you on this spanking new Definitive Jux release.
Def Jux is a label that constantly finds itself pushing the limitations of hip-hop music with more derivative and experimental releases like El P’s “Fantastic Damage”, or “Cold Vein” by Cannibal Ox. They continue to build upon the success that they have endured as a niche’ of originality in the rap genre and, therefore, build upon their collective roster of emcees. Originality certainly permeates track-by-track on this album which is an ode to a drink that Baje One and DJ Snafu felt they needed but “couldn’t find anywhere on the shelves.” The layered ideas on “Gran’Dad’s Nerve Tonic” go beyond what level of music the two are able to create, all the way to crazy cross-promotional stuff. Embedded Music’s CEO DJ Ese has teamed up with Six Points Craft Ales to create a limited-release beer to coincide with the album’s October release date. Take that 50 Cent and take your Vitamin Water with you.
Perhaps the members of Junk Science understand themselves more than anybody else. They state that they both have a love for intelligent stupidity–a trait that is clear throughout the entire album. “Pop Rocks (Extended Disco Edit)” is a good example of this with its grin-inducing lines like “I’m spittin’ cuz I’m sick/I’m not spittin’ for my health” and “So like I said before/ We gotta be the truth because we get ignored.” The title of the song is misleading; the beat is almost entirely percussion-based, along with a good majority of the CD. Listeners will be scratching their heads about where the ‘disco edit’ kicks in. Much of Junk Science’s charm comes from their extremely unpredictable nature.
The goofiness continues on the tracks “Jerry McGuire” that conceptualizes their song around the quote from the movie, “who’s coming with me!?” The song plays out like an anthem for unemployment with point-by-point references on the best way to quit your job. Those who hate their jobs (pretty much everybody, I imagine) will see the appeal in it. Meanwhile, the next track, “Hey! (Dr. Shennanigan’s Underwear)” gets too outrageous, bordering on Jewish-rapper MC Paul Barman’s way.
Guest spots on the album are plentiful, but surprisingly the biggest Def Jux names are sidelined. The most known of the features are Cool Calm Pete on “Words From Pedro” and Iller Than Theirs, who end up on “That Being Said”, respectively. “Words From Pedro” is the song that most overtly relates to the album’s strange title as it sounds like a commercial for the alcoholic beverage. All of the extras do a fine job, yet some could see them as almost distracting because of the very specific delivery of Baje One.
Not all of the ingredients of “Gran’Dad’s Nerve Tonic” are quite right. “Hey! (Dr. Shennanigan’s Underwear)” was already mentioned as a track where Baje One takes the wackiness to a level that will alienate a lot of rap listeners, though it is assumed that the typical rap fan will not be picking up this album in the first place. Moreover, with the exception of some of Snafu’s DJ scratches that spice things up, the album’s production gets a bit tiresome. The feel of the GNT is an overwhelming mid 90’s sound that relies on percussion instrumentals. Redundancy tends to be a problem with LP’s that are single-handedly produced. The boom bap is overdone, but mostly appealing. Due to the fact that this album is going for a loose concept it gets a little bit of a pass for a few lackluster beats.
Secondly, some of the choruses are not as precise as the lyricism of the verses. “Pop Rocks”, for instance, simply explains the urban myth of the volatile mixture of soda and pop rocks as a dangerous compound in a sing-songy way. Not all are this seemingly irrelevant, rather, merely a bit mundane and repetitive.
Every time that Junk Science missteps they make up for it with their own brand of clever wisdom. The “Slouchtro” talk about serious matters with this line: “And the fact of the matter just a matter of fact that needs raisin’/Like a man leavin’ the hood that he stays in/Like I’m too damn old to be runnin’ around actin’ like one of these kids that needs raisin.’ The concluding track enlightens the listener to the realization that there is more to the group than simple comedic value.
If you have been craving a taste of some new Definitive Jux music, then go out and pick up “Gran’Dad’s Nerve Tonic” by Junk Science. The duo of Baje One and DJ Snafu work together nicely and come through with an unexpectedly entertaining album out of nowhere. This album is good, but will only be fully appreciated by the music-fans that truly want to understand it.