Justice System Releases New Hip Hop And Rap Album Titled Basement Tapes

The lush soundscape of Justice System’s new album, Basement Tapes, is the product of a beautiful tension.  It is the tension that arises when eight NY hip-hop heads who grew up together blend 70’s soul music recording techniques, jazz quintet instrumentation, and programmed and chopped up beats to stretch the sound of hip-hop beyond conventional limits.

On tracks like “Bring the Justice” and “Where We’re From”, the caustic rhymes of Jahbaz, Folex, and Sugadeezil go head-to-head with Mo Betta Al’s searing horn lines and synth stabs, all against the atmospheric rumble of Coz Boogie’s bass and Eric G.’s beats.  Just as the underlying tension is about to peak, the songs transition to fulsome bridge arrangements and spirited choruses.  These transitions provide an emotional release for the energy that surges throughout the album.

The album’s first single, “Bronxian Bauxite” showcases the crew’s storytelling prowess over a classic NY Boom-Bap track produced by Jason Famous Beats.  “Bronxian Bauxite” is revealed to be a metaphor for breakbeats, which are described by Jahbaz as “a natural resource for the Pelon-Mecca [Bronx-Manhattan] soundscape”, and the raw material from which hip-hop music was produced.  (Bauxite is the sedimentary rock from which aluminum is produced.  Neocolonialists in the 1900s pillaged poor nations for their Bauxite reserves with utter disregard for the cultures of the peoples whose resources they were plundering.)

In the 1970s, “manually looped” breakbeats found in certain songs effectively became their own songs, and were wildly popular at parties in the Bronx and Manhattan. As we know, these breakbeats were the musical foundation for what became known as hip-hop music, “before the changeover” according to Folex, when breakbeats and hip hop were plundered by outsiders with dollar signs in their eyes.

Another album highlight is “Beads”, which is built around a rich jazz guitar line and an exquisitely in-the-pocket rhythm section.  Unexpectedly, the opening verse and choruses are sung by four children (including Jahbaz’s daughter and son), who extol the simplicity and earthly beauty of beads “made from the natural clay of the land.”  Folex drops a classic verse that recalls when he and the crew “used to see BDP at S.O.B.S” (a club in downtown NYC) and how the group got inspired to wear (and in Folex’s case, make) intricate bead necklaces.

“Where We’re From” is Justice System’s celebration of and homage to their hometown of Greenburgh, New York, and “914” (Westchester County) more generally. Folex sets the tone with stories of his favorite local hangouts, and his early crushes on girls from nearby Yonkers over s steady serving of high powered bass from Coz Boogie.  Sugadeezil’s vocals cascade down memory lane in a hometown code that outsiders may not understand at first, but no matter.  His relentless flow over this track is one of the highlights of the album and pairs well with the sultry sax played by Mo’ Betta Al throughout the track. Jahbaz brings it home with anecdotes from Woodlands High School (which the entire band attended) and a shout out to the band’s dearly departed friend and former co-manager, Ron Archer.

“Basement Tapes” features more guest musicians and producers than all three of Justice System’s prior albums combined.  Folex explains, “People like Breez Evahflowin (guest MC on ‘Evolution’), Ray (guitar on ‘Beads’), Kokane (chorus on ‘Pretty Lady’) and Chize (engineer and co-producer on ‘Beads’) are part of a small circle of trusted friends and musicians whose ears we trust, who understand the Justice System sound, and who inspire us as artists. Their contributions add new layers, but it is still the same Justice sound.” Jahbaz adds, “Justice System is a large crew to begin with —including Nick (videographer & artistic advisor, and who like Bim-e has a key voice in band matters), there’s 9 of us.  Since half the group now live in different states, we end up connecting with similar-minded musicians in our new locations.  It was great introducing Henry Loh, Justin Leonard, and Jason Famous to the rest of the crew, and watching them fit seamlessly into our studio family.”

Justice System was formed in 1990 and have released four albums, toured extensively and have continued to write and play music on various projects over the past 29 years. For more information check out the Justice System Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/justicesystemband and Instagram page at http://www.instagram.com/justicesystemband