Impeach the Precedent

Artist: Various ArtistsTitle: Impeach the PrecedentRating: 3 StarsReviewed by: Chris Yuscavage

Rarely does Hip-hop catch a ray of positive light in the mainstream media these days. So when 1999’s Funky Precedent, the first album in the Funky Precedent benefit compilation series, received acclaim as the “#1 Underground Record of the Year” from Spin Magazine, it marked one of the few times that Hip-hop and social change have been mentioned in the same sentence in the blinged-out Ice Age of the culture. Benefiting the music departments of public schools, Funky Precedent featured the Southern California’s finest with everyone from Jurassic 5 and Ugly Duckling to Styles of Beyond and Black Eyed Peas, who had still yet to “get it started.”

Though 6 years existed between releases, the FP series continues in 2005 with the tongue-in-cheek Impeach the Precedent (KSD Music/Kajmere Sound), a primarily socio-political devotion to the environment, with proceeds this time around being donated to The Rainforest Action Network. In a Hip-hop meets Mother Nature tribute though, Impeach the Precedent overindulges in jazzy and funktified tracks that will play as skippable fodder for the less mature Hip-hop audience it aims to reach.

Over a heavy bassline and dirty drum pattern, Spitkicker J-Live conceptually stays within the confines of the album’s cause on “Give It Up” as he masterfully personifies Mother Nature as a female in the club pursued by a bunch of hooligan types. “Hell hath no wrath like a woman’s scorn, do you really want beef with your Momma Nature?” he questions within his diatribe. And with Hip-hop’s knack for promoting environmentally unconscious SUV trucks and diamond mining, he’s got a point. Other efforts, like “Love” (The Globetroddas), focus a little less on the actual Earth and more on appreciating the small things in life, while the more social “Haves and Have Nots” (DJ Einstein of Ugly Duckling and MC Zaakir of Jurassic 5), plays more into the hearts of hip-hop purists looking more for clean music than a clean environment. “If I have to choose between the have and have nots, a $50,000 diamond-color watch, James to customize a 600 soft top, No question if I love hip-hop,” Zaakir raps on the latter.

But tracks like “What If We All Stopped Paying Taxes?” (Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings), a proactively demonstrative attack on the American democracy, may catch the ear of the tree-hugging types more than present-day Hip-hop fanatics. And despite the funk-soul and jazz vibes of “P.A.Z.” (Antibalas Afrobeat Orchestra), “Everybody Say Yeah” (The Rebirth), and “L.O.V.E. and You and I” (Jazzanova), the immense lengths of each (between 6 and 8 minutes long) will fail to capture the 4-minute ear of most attention-deficient listeners.

Structured towards the more cultured listener, Impeach the Precedent capitalizes on the elements of realism and practicality that something devoted to the environment should. Still, with a lack of cohesion and a choppy combination of hip-hop, jazz, funk, and soul, the Precedent follow-up may have been better served sticking to 1 or 2 of its plethora of sounds. The cause is good; the result just falls short. Impeach the Precedent stands guilty as charged.