On 2005's Three Piece Puzzle, Jneiro Jarel seemed content to be what he was in a physical sense, a Brooklyn-based MC and producer making genre-bending, boundary-pushing music. Apparently that wasn't enough. Jarel decided to indulge every eccentricity on Craft of the Lost Art and it worked, the way a mad scientist or genius engineer makes a stopgap, multi-part invention work. The sonic culprits are a make-believe supergroup Jarel named Shape of Broad Minds, which is actually Jarel playing several characters: Jawwaad, the Houston-raised multi-instrumentalist (keyboards, trumpet); Rocque Won, a West Coast singer in the psychedelic vein of Jimi Hendrix and Prince; and, of course, Philadelphian Dr. Who Dat?, a beat-digger and studio maestro. This schizophrenic group allows Panama Black, an MC from Atlanta, to explore with them. On the first cut, "Gorilla Mash," Jarel appropriates a combative version of the James Bond theme (or Spy Hunter theme, depending on what generation you rep) and advises, "Put on your wet suits, we 'bout to dive up in here." For the rest of the album, Jarel's multi-personalty crew provides a cacophony of distant sounds, ambiguous samples (where he tends to morph singers' ad libs as opposed to speed them up as most hip-hop producers do), hard rock riffs, and jarring drum tracks. He's also not afraid of songs with several bridges and shifting arrangements, perhaps exemplified by "Changes," maybe the album's best cut. It's a level of improvisation and creativity that characterizes only the best albums. His weirded-out crooning on "OPR8R" is the perfect layer to add to production that is at once disorienting and in the cut. The album also features what seems to be a burgeoning crew of similar broad minds with Count Bass D, the venerable MF Doom, Stacy Epps, and John Robinson showing up as guests. This is an exploratory album, with no terrain off limits. These travels and Jarel's curiosities are producing some of hip-hop's most challenging music as the first decade of the new millennium comes to a close.
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AllMusic Review by Vincent Thomas
feat: Count Bass D
feat: Stacy Epps
feat: Deborah Jordan