Juggaknots

Use Your Confusion

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In 1996, brothers Kevin "Buddy Slim" and Paul "Breezly Brewin'" Smith, going under the name the Juggaknots, released Clear Blue Skies, a nine-track vinyl-only EP whose title song, which explored ideas of interracial dating through a conversation between a father and a son, set them up as an underground slept-on favorite, and helped to launch the career of MC Breezly Brewin' (his name taken from a cartoon he liked to watch as a child), landing him work with Prince Paul, among others, and helping to secure his title as an underrated MC. Ten years later, the Juggaknots' follow-up (though a version of the EP was reissued in 2003), Use Your Confusion, made its way into fans' hands. Adding sister Peridot, or Queen Herawin, to the mix, Slim and Breeze Brewin' (as he calls himself now) split production duties (previously it had been the former who took care of those), also enlisting help from J-Zone and Oh No, among others, although it is the brothers' work that fits the flow and style of the group the best. Favoring soul samples darkened by minor-keyed live instrumentation, the beats loop concisely around the even, nearly monotonic flow of Breeze (making the nasally Sadat X on "30 Something" sound positively rambunctious) and the similarly styled rhymes of Herawin, who, while she does add a female perspective -- in "Strip Joint," "Movin' the Chains," and "Daddy's Little Girl" -- to the otherwise male-oriented album (and genre), doesn't have the chops of her older brother(s). On the OutKast-inspired title track, Breeze raps in triplets, which complements the song's heavy two-beat fantastically, but Herawin can't quite keep up her flow, stumbling rhythmically at times and generally sounding awkward. And while she does hold her own as a solo rapper in "Daddy's Little Girl" (as opposed to the more tag-team approach the group often takes in the other songs), her rhymes are not strong or focused enough to really hit as the younger Knots did on Clear Blue Skies. Actually, none of the rhymes on Use Your Confusion are as good as what Breeze did there, but they're interesting, honest, and socially aware, and as a whole the album is a lot more consistent, with 16 adequate if not good ("Hey," "Vows," and "New $$$," for example) tracks that are all well-produced and musical and diverse. It certainly shows the Juggaknots' maturity and their abilities as complete artists, and is a welcome return.

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