Various Artists

Back in 1991 this Various Artists compilation was stuck on my turntable for what seemed like months. The acid jazz scene had been born and in the USA jazz flavoured hip hop was briefly the cutting edge, partly led by Spike Lee’s Mo’ Better Blues film in 1990. This all fed into the emerging trip hop scene too I think. The Rebirth Of Cool was a fourteen track compilation opened by Gang Starr’s Jazz Thing, with a swinging beat and pulsing bassline from DJ Premier and Guru’s effortless rhymes recounting the history of jazz and its place importance now/then.

Jazz Thing

There are many fine moments among the rest of the songs and artists- X Clan’s Raise The Flag, MC Mello, Dream Warriors, Stetsasonic’s brilliant Talkin’ All That Jazz, Galliano and Young Disciples from London’s Acid Jazz label and Young MC. Between 1991 and 1998 4th And Broadway put out a further seven volumes and it lost its way a bit. I bailed out after Volume 2 but this one, the first, was a definite winner.

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Now What You Hear Is Not A Test

In 1991 CJ Mackintosh remixed Gang Starr’s Take A Rest, starting with the ‘Now what you hear is not a test’ sample and then housifying it from there. This didn’t go down too well with the goosedown jacket fraternity but hip-house had its place and I still like this remix, even if it is a tad dated. Guru and DJ Premier made their music sound so effortless.

It’s A Long Way To Go When You Don’t Know Where You’re Going

It’s funny- having not listened to any hip-hop for years, not deliberately anyway, I’ve been undergoing a bit of a phase. Some select tracks have found their way onto the portable mp3 player that makes my commute more fun. Gang Starr have two songs on it at the moment but having listened to them this week they could end up with a lot more. I loved at least three of their albums back in the day- Step In The Arena, Daily Operation and Hard To Earn. Gang Starr often managed a perfect blend of Guru’s easy flowing lyrics and DJ Premier’s beats and sounds, a stripped back, minimal, economic sound. This one is a really good example…

And from Hard To Earn…

A Long Way To Go

The Edwin La Dell lithograph up top, Woburn Urns, is about as un-hip hop as it gets. Juxtapositions- I shit ’em (as Reg Presley never said).

No Time To Play

During the summer of 1993 (which was *shakes head* nineteen years ago) one of the most played records in my room was Guru’s Jazzmatazz. The Jazzmatazz album was a different beast from Gang Starr (who I also loved) replacing two turntables and a microphone with live instruments, loads of guests, loved up vibe. This song is the sound of summer, perfect now that summer has finally arrived in north-west England (or it did, last couple of days have eased off a bit on the sunshine and heat), spot on for a Sunday morning too. Dusty drumbeat, vinyl crackle, Ronny Jordan’s sprightly guitar, Guru’s laid back rhyme and DC Lee exhorting us to not waste any time, do it now, get out there, seize the day ‘cos life is short y’know, all that kind of stuff. Never no time to play.

I loved Jazzmatazz Volume 1. I bought Volume 2 and played it maybe once. Until I googled it just now I’m not sure I even knew there were a Volume 3 and a Volume 4. Guru died last April.

No Time To Play