J Boogie's Dubtronic Science

Undercover

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It's no longer very unusual for a band to feature a horn section, multiple percussionists, and a DJ using a pair of turntables as an instrument. What is kind of unusual is for the man on the decks to be the bandleader, but that's the arrangement that J Boogie has been working with for years, and he makes it work very well. Among other things, it gives him tremendous stylistic flexibility, and his live sets and recordings careen joyfully and with deceptive ease from nu-soul to Latin funk to deep dub without ever breaking a sweat. On Undercover, the group's sound has only become deeper and richer, drawing on a broad roster of guest vocalists and rappers (Afrolicious, Chrys Anthony, MC Zulu, and the Mamaz all make brilliant cameo appearances) to give the celebrated J Boogie groove that much more traction. Take, for example, the song "It's on Fire," which by all rights should be a completely disposable "we sure know how to party" throwaway, but is made compelling by Lateef the Truthspeaker's joyful rapping, J Boogie's squidgy synths and dubwise touches, and the band's razor-sharp horn section. Or the skanking rap en espaƱol of "El Ritmo." Or the booming, bouncing, sexy '80s funk groove of "Magik," a track that sounds like Lisa Lisa as produced by Herbie Hancock with an 808 bass. The fact is, there isn't a bum track anywhere on this album. To listen to it is to completely rethink the appropriateness of fedoras in the 21st century. Brilliant.

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