Producer-driven albums can go both ways in terms of overall quality but they almost always have good beats. "The Magnificent" is not only a diverse album featuring underground hip hop along with house music, R&B and spoken word poetry, but it is his way to step out of the shadow of Will Smith. Will Smith is nowhere to be found on "The Magnificent" and to me, that's a plus. Jeff's production company A Touch Of Jazz produces the whole album. As every track is produced very well, the guest vocalists not only add diversity to themes and styles but affect the variety of quality.
Diversity is the key element to this album. The majority of the tracks are hip hop songs with underground emcees and sung hooks. The only somewhat well-known guests on this project are Freddie Foxxx, Jill Scott, Last Emperor, Shawn Stockmen (from Boyz II Men), and the incredible J-Live. A majority of the guests are unknown underground artists like Pauly Yamz, Baby Blak and Raheim. The hunger is evident and their styles and lyrics do prevail on most songs.
Since it is a Jazzy Jeff record, do not expect topics of gun-toting, weed smoking, or jewelry. The title track featuring Pauly Yamz & Baby Blak is an ode to the DJ. Using the same melodic loop from "Butta" by A Tribe Called Quest. The track is basically a theme song for Jeff. Of course, the turntable wizardry is impeccable! Pauly Yamz and Baby Blak have 2 more songs together. The first single "For The Love Of The Game" is a very radio-friendly feel-good track with a sung hook that has some dope scratching in the background. It's basically a song about the love for hip hop that uses a very cool jazzy guitar sample. It's one of the strongest cuts with the unknown emcees besides the title track. Other themes include black pride, the love of music, romance, Philadelphia, and stress.
The underground emcees make up a large part of the album. "Shake It Off" featuring Chef is a somewhat silly but very catchy tune. The two romantic tracks use music to inspire and delight. "Rock With You" featuring Eric Robertson and "Love Savior" featuring Flo Brown and Rahiem are decent tracks that have strong romantic themes. "Know Your Hood" featuring Pauly Yamz & Chef uses a cool piano sample and paints a vivid picture of ghetto lifestyles. The rhymes are hardcore and so is the half-sung/half-chanted hook. "Musik Lounge" featuring Odyssey is a nice, mellow track about the power of music and relaxation. It creates a very chilled out atmosphere.
J-Live is the shining star emcee on the LP. "A Charmed Life" is also on J-Live's album "All Of The Above." It's an excellent auto-biographical track which has upright bass lines, jazzy symbol rhythms and nice jazzy vibed melodies. The true gem is "Break It Down." J-Live is incredible on this track. Every verse demands your attention as his energy and delivery is superb. The up-tempo beat bounces along with a wise and somewhat cartoon-like melody as Jeff adds some incredible scratching. It truly is the best track on the LP.
Other more not-so-well-known (but well respected) emcees stand out the most on the album. Freddie Foxx gives a hungry performance on "Scram," and The Last Emperor gives his usually great performance on "Mystery Man."
The R&B aspects drag the album down. "My People" featuring Raheim is an interesting listen since it deals with the power and strength that black people have endured generation after generation. Other songs like "We Are" featuring Cy Young and Raheim are filler tracks. Even though they're produced well, they do not command the attention like the other tracks.
There are a couple of odd but cool standout tracks that add to the albums diversity. "We Live In Philly" featuring Jill Scott is a remake of Roy Ayers' "We Live In Brooklyn." Here, Jill Scott does a spoken word (somewhat freestyled) dream sequence of famous and not-so famous Philadelphia trademarks. Places and people are dropped into the mix. Julius Irving, Miss Jackie, Steady B, Patty LaBelle, Schooly D, and Allen Iverson are only a few of the many names mentioned. How can you not like a song where Joe Frazier pops out of a closet and kicks Rocky's ass? The beat has cool handclaps in the rhythm along with funked out orchestra-melodies and organs. If you are only familiar with Jill Scott's singing, you may not even recognize her. It is an enjoyable song for people who have lived in or visited Philadelphia. "In Time" featuring V is a very inspirational and uplifting deep house track. Here is where the singing truly works. The singing and the music is very uplifting and so are the sentiments of the song.
Overall, DJ Jazzy Jeff's album is a fun summertime album. The production rules the LP. Every single song is produced with intensity and a love for music. The rhythms are diverse and complicated. While most tracks have that "Jazzy feel," the beats are hard enough to please hardcore hip hop lovers but they are not rough. There is a glossy feel to the beats which give this album a more commercial vibe. The underground emcees do bring a lyrical credibility to the album in many ways. There is not one bad beat on the album, Jeff's performances on the turntables are incredible too. He is not only a great producer but a turntable wizard. Unfortunately, an album is not just production, scratching and beats. While the diversity gives the LP a smooth flow, the abundant amount of singing drags it down in some parts. Even though the singing is supposed to give a balance to the hardcore emcees, it does not work on some songs. One thing I love about this album is the love and appreciation for the hip-hop DJ. If you like light but intelligent hip hop with jazz-influences and some genre-exploring songs, this is for you. As DJ Jazzy Jeff said, "This is for people who love good music."