"I became a fan of Guru after I heard and fell in love with his collaboration with Angie Stone, "Keep your worries". That made me go out and get the album it came from, 2000's "Guru's jazzmatazz Streetsoul" which I loved, especially all the collaborations with acts ranging from Craig David, Les Nubians, to Isaac Hayes and Erykah Badu.
"Guru's jazzmatazz, Vol.4: The Hip Hop Jazz Messenger: Back to the future" came out June 2007, and much like his 2000 effort is another collaboration effort. It is the fourth in his Jazzmatazz series.
The retro funk opening cut "Cuz I'm jazzy" features Slum Village stating they are "jazzy like Dizzy and Bird". The horn peppered "State of clarity" features Common and Bob James on keyboards. More upbeat is "Stand up (some thing's'll never change)" with Damian Marley (rich percussion).The sax drenched quiet storm "Look to the sun" features Solar. "Connection" features Kem, while "Fine and free" featuring Vivian Green samples The Isley Brothers' "Summer breeze" and has acoustic flourishes. "Wait on me" with Raheem DeVaughn (and his Marvin Gaye harmonies) could have been on any of his 2 albums.
"International" is a lilting midtempo song with a latin feel and Bobby Valentino on harmonies. The brooding funk groove of "This is art" features Ronnie laws, "Fly magnetic" (with its scratchy bassline) features Dionne Farris and is pure neo soul. The piano sprinkled D'angelo styled "The jazz style" features Omar and sounds like something from some spy movie.
"Follow the signs" which features Shelley Harland is slowed down with some sitar sounds, "Universal struggle" with Brownman is sprinkled with muted sax, "Infinite" features Blackalicious and features a sample of Kool & The Gang's "Summer madness", "Kissed the world" with Caron Wheeler samples Toto's "Georgie porgy", and closing is "Living legend" with David Sanborn (it has loads of sax and great piano flourishes).
A brilliant blend of jazz, funk, and hip hop with some of the most talented singers and musicians on hand. Not as immediate as "...Streetsoul" but still great. "
Get the message?
Anthony Rupert | Milwaukee, WI | 01/30/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"You normally wouldn't expect a forty-something-year-old rapper to still be making music without sounding like a has-been, but Guru is doing just that. His latest release in the Jazzmatazz series, Vol. 4: The Hip-Hop Messenger: Back to the Future, is pretty solid.
For those that aren't familiar with Jazzmatazz, it's a mixture of jazz and rap, so don't necessarily expect this to sound like a Gang Starr album. DJ Premier isn't even here; instead, the producer is Solar -- wait, wait; don't get discouraged. I know Solar's production was the major downfall on The Street Scriptures, but he's gotten a lot better now (and you can also tell this is a Jazzmatazz album because there are very few profanities, and when they DO come up, they're censored).
Soulful artists take the stage alongside Guru's rhymes, like Dionne Farris on "Fly Magnetic" and Raheem DeVaughn on "Wait on Me"; and while I'm not sure what Bobby Valentino is doing on a Guru album, he sounds fine as well on "International". Caron Wheeler also shines on the interesting anti-Bush song, "Kissed the World".
Other rappers impress as well, especially Common on "State of Clarity"; but the Blackalicious-assisted "Infinite" is also quality. And Guru still manages to hold his own rollin' dolo -- well, unless you don't count other instrumentalists as guest stars. Whatever the case, someone called Brown Man manages to lay down nice music on "Universal Struggle", as does Ronnie Laws on the aptly titled "This is Art".
Guru's voice DOES still have the tendency to get a little dull sometimes, which is why I knocked off one star. Still, Vol. 4 (I'm not writing out that whole title again) is a cool addition to the Jazzmatazz series, so cop it.
He is older and still has it.....
Gregory Gross | Columbus, Ohio United States | 12/17/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Everything I liked about Jazzmatazz 1&2 is evident on this recording. Guru is now an established artist and handles every track like the seasoned pro he is. However, some of the rawness is gone, and while I understand why, it took me a little by surprise. Many of the Jazz musicians on this recording are far less edgy than the previous ones, and this gives the music an more "relaxed" feel. No more dark streets, gangsters, or pranksters."
Better than the last, but no Vol. #1
Qawi S. Robinson | Washington, DC United States | 10/26/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"In a few words, this latest installment of Jazzmatazz came with great expectation. The cameos on this album come like a list of who's who in Progressive Jazz and NeoSoul. With no shortage of talent on this album, this version of Jazzmatazz seems very unbalanced lyrically and in diversity of the message. I know that sounds harsh, but blame it on being spoiled by the first Jazzmatazz, as it was one that was more than mere entertainment. It was a blend of Hip-Hop, Jazz, and message that is still a good listen more than 10 years later.
What this album suffers from is too much GURU. I know that sounds crazy, but this album suffers too much from GURU's braggadocio and treats the other artists in some cases like hook makers and background instead of contributors. Check out 'Wait on Me', 'International', and 'The Jazz Style' to see what I mean. How many times can you hear he's "The Man of the Year", etc. ? Not only that, but the urban storyteller, political activist Guru seems to be missing from most of the album. Thankfully he returns in the latter part of the album.
I have much respect for Solar. I don't doubt his production capability as he knows how to get the personnel, but the extra talent just seemed wasted on a few tracks.
The standouts are: Cuz I'm Jazzy, Fly Magnetic, Follow the Signs, Universal Struggle, Infinite, Kissed the World, Living Legend. Kissed The World is the best in my opinion.