Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Jungle Brothers

  • Straight Out the Jungle [Idlers, 1988] A-
  • Done by the Forces of Nature [Warner Bros., 1989] A
  • J. Beez Wit the Remedy [Warner Bros., 1993] B+
  • Raw Deluxe [Gee Street, 1997] Neither
  • V.I.P. [Gee Street, 1999] Dud

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Straight Out the Jungle [Idlers, 1988]
Like an early Bambaataa jam with comic timing, it starts out looser and more comradely than most rap dares any more. Then it stays that way. Crew name turns an insult around while permitting some light pan-Africanism, a Melle Mel hook, and the simple point that anywhere people get killed for the color of their skin is a jungle for sure. Samples come every which way--here Mingus, there Farfisa-cum-Hammond-B3, and over there drumbeats so offhand I'd half swear they were live. And reinforcing their professions of solidarity is the fact that they hardly boast at all--unless you're afraid claims that their jimbrowskis are seven feet tall will be taken literally by their tragically ill-informed audience. A-

Done by the Forces of Nature [Warner Bros., 1989]
Somehow these young Afro-New Yorkers have evolved a rap version of urban African pop at its most life-affirming: the boasts low-key, the propaganda beyond hostility, the samples evoking everything tolerant and humane in recent black-music memory, this is music designed to comfort and sustain. Between DJ AfriKa's casual drawl and sidetalk that ebbs and flows under the main track like an inner-city McCabe and Mrs. Miller, the sound is as original as De La Soul's, and the dreams of pleasure are straight out the urban jungle--in my favorite, a smooth brother muses to the Coasters' "Shopping for Clothes" as a tropical stream washes over his family jewels. And though I can live without promises that the final judgment is at hand, the JB's do wonders for one's sense of doom just by sounding merciful. A

J. Beez Wit the Remedy [Warner Bros., 1993]
Four years after, you can definitely discern an absence--of faith or community or existential confidence, youth or advance money or raw spiritual health. Where once hooks were a pop luxury their holistic groove had no time for, now the JB's sound as dissociated as some tortured hippie manque or privileged gangsta. So catchier would be nice. Yet they remain unique--street, street-tough, devoid of suburban patina or collegiate pretension, yet somehow free of hostility, blissed out in their blackness. Positive, I guess. And the great stuff--the beats concrète of "Blahbludify" and "For the Heads at Company Z" and "Man Made Material," maybe the headlong preclimax of "JB's Comin' Through" and "Spittin Wicked Randomness"--experiments more esoterically the Michaels D or Ivey have ever dared. B+

Raw Deluxe [Gee Street, 1997] Neither

V.I.P. [Gee Street, 1999] Dud