City Limits

Artist: DujeousTitle: City LimitsRating: 3 1/2 StarsReviewed by: Paine

Just as there appears to be a sampling Renaissance, there is an extension – a Renaissance of the Hip-Hop musician. N.E.R.D. finally made an imprint on the masses nearly a year after their debut release, The Roots prepare to outdo their most popular album and M.O.P. has recorded an entire album with a session Rock band. Dujeous appeals to a new, softer, side of Hip-Hop. Having made their presence known by scoring the debut season of ESPN’s “The Life”, and a steady effort on Rob Swift’s last album, Dujeous offers their debut album, City Limits to the masses at an optimal time.

Being a live-band, Dujeous’ reputation has generally been grounded in their live show and music. Rheturik, Mas D, and Mojo are all very talented MC’s. Together they form a strong chemistry that allows them to trade verses without common or awkward transitions. Tracks like “Sometimes” are able to pose serious questions and show tones revealing of the group’s opinions on issues. At the same time, joints like “All MC’s” are distinctly underground, dealing with simple mic-rocking and B-Boy bravado. The chemistry of the group and connection to the music often overshadow the actual words. Instead of sharp images and driving cadences, the album sounds more song-driven, working towards the bigger picture. Despite the more professional song structure, many hooks don’t work. It’s difficult to refer back to three voices repeating four bars together as a chorus. In these moments, Dujeous falls short, just as The Spooks did for similar reasons. However, on several tracks such as “Sometimes”, there are additional song bridges that serve as stronger high points. Still, if a weak hook is the weakest link, that’s saying a great deal towards the sound foundation of all else.

Musically, City Limits sets its own vibe. Despite ranging tempos, Dujeous seems to find themselves dealing in pensive, gliding tracks layered with deep strings and percussion. This is night-time Hip-Hop. The Spooks and Black Eyed Peas’ debut albums seem as worthwhile reference points here. However, the live band elements shine through more than those of the aforementioned groups. The fabulous horn section courtesy of Dave Guy brings the surface of songs like “Spilt Milk” to life. For steady and interesting percussion that defies the electronic approach, Tomek does a stellar job varying the tempo. However, while ?uestlove plays step-for-step against Black Thought’s delivery, Tomek needs to add some juice with a solo or two for the album. While it’s very instrumental, Dujeous shows their love of Hip-Hop with moving scratch sections on “Just Once” and the hot, title track proving Just One as a dope DJ. There’s very little missing in terms of the musical talent on this album.

City Limits is a solid first album effort. If there is a weakest link, it’s clearly poor hooks and an abundance of attempted-conceptual interludes. This album is definitely a New York soundtrack, without brandishing that quality. While a distinct vibe is set, it’d be nice to see Dujeous step out of the box once or twice and really jam out some solos. However, this is a groundbreaking album in terms of its Jazz qualities and chilled out take on Hip-Hop.