It’s been a stellar 2021 for British soul and hip-hop, and “Camera of Sound” is a shining example of this. There’s a lot of variety, ranging from Ghetts, Little Simz, Slowthai, and Bugzy Malone to Children of Zeus, Sinead Harnett, and Jorja Smith. What separates Jazz Spastiks from these artists and most others, is they are specialists in fun. That may be an odd statement, but it perfectly describes every track they release. I can’t remember the last time I heard a selection of beats and rhymes that wasn’t just masterfully executed but sounded like the artists enjoyed crafting each element.
Don’t get me wrong, the themes and concepts here are derivative and cliched but this isn’t about pushing into new territory. This is celebratory without pandering and throwback without being overly nostalgic. The emcees featured are eclectic enough to carry tracks with their personality, whether it’s hearing C-Rayz Walz (remember him?) throwing insults on “Small Sounds”, Kool Keith’s random musings on “Ruff ‘N’ Rugged” or the wonderfully hectic “Go!” with Phill Most Chill.
The DIY visuals the duo use in their videos matches the feel of their music too. These are collages that have been assembled meticulously, without a big budget or superstar name behind it. By keeping things simple and simply executing them immaculately, Jazz Spastiks breathe new life into played-out phrases like “Rock the Block” and “Party People”.
If you were impressed by just how adept Big Daddy Kane still is at rapping quickly, fellow Juice Crew alumnus Craig G steps up on the closer “Blow Up Your Stereo” with a straightforward, yet satisfying nod to that golden era of hip-hop. There’s also a great bit of Biz Markie scratched into “Supadupa”, probably the best beat on the whole album. This is the type of record Biz would have sounded at home on and two minutes of Biz stating he’s “super duper with the rhymes I invent” is a reminder just how missed his voice will be.
There aren’t many albums around like “Camera of Sound” which is genuinely disheartening. Drifting between jazzy boom-bap and hand-picked guest emcees reminds me of records like “Petestrumentals” and that’s esteemed company to keep. Tying things together is a mixtape aesthetic; the scratching and short song lengths; keeping everything moving along nicely. “Some Old New Shit” sums it all up as that’s exactly what this is and it comes highly recommended.