jbeez

Like any experimental band working within a genre, Jungle Brothers have gone through a myriad of styles, themes, and adaptations throughout their 20-year career. The bulk of the band’s output, though, came during the crazy influential times of 1987-1993, when hip-hop was going through the pleasures and pains of pushing boundaries while at the same time acclimating to the corporate/popular consciousness. Acts like De La Soul and A Tribe Called Quest (both members of the Native Tongues collective along with Jungle Brothers) were selling records, attracting critical acclaim, and putting out some of the most experimental music of any genre in the 90s. Nothing expresses the complexity and oddity of these times like the band’s third album, J. Beez Wit the Remedy. Released by Warner Bros. in 1993, J. Beez is an epic contradiction of experimentation and compromise. It’s also really weird and dope as fuck.

If Jungle Brothers ever end up on Jeopardy!, the answer will be, “The first hip-hop band to ever collaborate with a house producer.” The debut Jungle Brothers album, Straight Out of the Jungle, included the single “I’ll House You,” produced by NYC house pioneer Todd Terry. The album also rocketed the band onto the national stage as Michael Small (Mike Gee), Nathaniel Hall (Afrika Baby Bam) and Sammy Burwell (DJ Sammy B) went on to sign with Warner Bros. Done By the Forces of Nature, 1989’s debut for the major label, went on to sell fairly well, but was drowned out by, among other things, the dropping of the hip hop classic 3 Feet High and Rising by De La Soul. Despite the critical success of the album, Jungle Brothers took four years off before releasing the J. Beez Wit the Remedy in 1993.

J. Beez Wit the Remedy is solid early 90s hip hop infused the jazz, funk, psychedelic, house and other experimental qualities. The album’s opener, “40 Below Trooper,” is a pretty straight forward banger that proposes the band’s new posture: a considerably less Afrocentric tone, fused with a lyrical and sonic experimentation toward the weird. In fact, it seems Jungle Brothers took those four years to put down their Bibles and Marcus Garvey pamphlets and smoke a ton of weed to strange ass records. Nothing supports this hypothesis like the track, “I’m In Love with Indica,” a stoned ode to the band’s drug of choice. The only huge exception to this is the second track, “Book of Rhyme Pages,” which is probably one of the deepest songs one will ever hear dealing with life philosophy, the fear of modern times, and the history of hip hop. Other cuts like “Good Lookin Out” are more basic, bass line and beat driven inventions, something that was be perfected by A Tribe Called Quest two years earlier on Low End Theory.  Props are due to Jungle Brothers, though, for taking it a step further and enlisting famed bassist Bill Laswell on the record. One of the best tracks, “My Jimmy Weighs a Ton,” is filled with dope break beats, smooth female vocals, and extremely mellow rhymes about wooing the ladies, and, of course, the size/weight of one’s member. “My Jimmy” is arguably Jungle Brothers’ best attempt at coupling classic hip hop and sonic experimentation. By the end of the album, dudes have dispensed with the former and taken the latter to the extreme.

“Spittin’ Wicked Randomness” is definitely the apex of Jungle Brothers’ hip hop experiment. Broken beats, extreme fades, messy samples, lo-fi instrumentation, and seemingly freestyle/live rhymes, create what can only be described as the rap equivalent of avant-garde noise rock. In other words, it’s pure freaking genius. There is no way in hell a Warner Bros. A&R could have heard this track and thought, “This is going to be a hit!” In fact, I would pay good money to see the footage of the expressions on the record execs faces when Jungle Brothers played this track for them. Jungle Brothers don’t do skits, they do noise vignettes; amazing 2-3 minutes tracks that definitely inspired the likes of James Dewitt Yancey (J Dilla) and Guillermo Scott Herren (Prefuse 73), and probably have (should have?) influenced a whole host of indie rock bands who trend toward the psychedelic/noise end of the rock spectrum.

J. Beez Wit the Remedy is certainly not going to find a home with just any hip hop head—this record was written for a pretty exclusive amount of music lovers—which isn’t to say that Jungle Brothers are an overly-intellectual or pretentious group, but that these dudes were on some whole other level. If I had to take one lyric to express this record it’d have to be from the track “I’m In Love with Indica,” the stoned ode that has the band rhyming, “Momma used to say what kinda shit you on? I said, momma I’m lifted, I’m gifted. I did a show last night and I ripped it.” Also, and I could be wrong, I think they sample the song from Castlevania at some point. In other words, all of those changes in style, theme, and adaptation that take some bands 20 years to go through, the Jungle Brothers can do in about 20 minutes. Dudes just decided to do both.

— Josh Honn

Jungle Brothers: J. Beez Wit the Remedy (1993)
1. 40 Below Trooper
2. Book of Rhyme Pages
3. My Jimmy Weighs a Ton
4. Good Ole Hype Shit
5. Blahbludify
6. Spark a New Flame
7. I’m in Love With Indica
8. Simple as That
9. All I Think About Is You
10. Good Lookin Out
11. JB’s Comin Through
12. Spittin Wicked Randomness
13. For the Headz at Company
14. Manmade Material

Who are the Jungle Brothers?

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