Hands On

Artist: DJ Nu-MarkTitle: Hands OnRating: 3 1/2 StarsReviewed by: Paine

DJ Nu-Mark doesn’t get much credit. As one of the best DJ’s in Hip-Hop, Nu-Mark shares duties with DJ Cut Chemist as part of Jurassic 5. Together, that makes a team as strong as Wyclef and Jerry “Wonder” Duplesis. Nu-Mark maintains the lower profile of the two, especially after the “Brainfreeze” hype. With a live album, and a few bootleg rare groove releases, Hands On is Nu Mark’s first official mixtape – a weave of mid 90’s sleepers, rare funk grooves, and independent Hip-Hop from all over the planet.

This mixtape is very well sequenced. Mark opens with a rare groove set that is likely to introduce vintage translations of your favorite classic Hip-Hop cuts. The drum break and wah-wah’s on “Laying Eggs”, from the Paz archive is a real standout for slow rockers everywhere. Held together by the timeless groove of Organized Konfusion’s “Fudge Funk”, Nu Mark touches some bases for DJ Premier’s large base of die hard fans. Rather than high profile classics or new breaking records, Nu-Mark links together classic interlude beats from Premo’s mid 90’s period å la Group Home and Jeru. If only today’s artists were making throw-away beats that can endure this well.

With a strong, solid, sense of yesterday, Nu-Mark takes risks in the tracks he mixes of the future. While overseas many Hip-Hop acts make great money touring and selling records, America rarely gives back. Nu-Mark validates the hard work that foreign acts are doing by including them in his set. “Samauri” by Shurik’n is a nice French offering, while Schlechta Umgang’s “Crew Song” represents the Scandanavian lovely. These tracks might startle Americans at first, but while we might not completely understand it, it’s nice to see Hip-Hop’s universal manifest destiny in action.

Nu-Mark made two new exclusives specifically for this album. One with J5 front-man, Charli 2na, the other with J-Live. The track with J, “Brand Nu Live” is a remarkably mellow track that in sound is reminiscent of J5’s debut EP, but in theory is proof that J-Live makes some of the best cool-out Hip-Hop today. But of all the exclusives, the most alarming may very well be “Melody” by the Blendcrafters. This track is a highly experimental fusion of piano, uptempo percussion, and stage-show style singing. Without a doubt, Nu-Mark’s sense of production is one of the finest and most daring in the culture today.

Hands On was a challenging mix for the DJ. He didn’t use any certified hits. Instead, he pulled many elements together for an abstract Hip-Hop collective. The album has several movements – from funk, to Hip-Hop, to experimental, and back. Nu-Mark never talks on the record, and the quality is high. Basically, this is a great CD to fill in for lack of a DJ at any party, for any crowd. In the same token, this is one of the finest overall mixes to be released in a year, without pushing into one specific direction.

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