Some albums instantly slap you in the face because they are just so incredible you say to yourself, "Damn! This is dope!". "Clear Blue Skies (Re:Release)" by Juggaknots is one of those albums. Juggaknots are a family group consisting of Breezly Bruin (on the mic), Buddy Slim (production) and little sister Heroine (also on the mic). Breezly first got critical acclaim and some minor fame as "Tariq" in Prince Paul's Hip-Opera concept album "A Prince Among Thieves". Breezly Bruin did an incredible job but he still gets confused with Breeze Evaflowin. Juggaknots released the "Clear Blue Skies" EP and years went by. Now, Third Earth Records released this incredible album as a full-length LP. Juggaknots went back into the studio and made many more songs and did some remixes. The outcome is a 20-track LP filled with dope beats and mind-blowing rhymes. Not only does it have that feel of early/mid-90's hip-hop (because some of it was recorded back then) but the LP is one of those rare cases where a balance between the beat and the rhyme is perfect.
There are many terrific tracks on this album and it is hard to choose a favorite. The original version of "Clear Blue Skies" (the hidden track) still sounds fresh as it did years ago. The sample glides along for a perfect concept song. Here, a white racist father and his son are arguing because he is in love with a Black woman. Breeze plays both parts. The father's voice is recorded in a lower octave. Breeze's lyrics from the father are both horrific, offensive but humorous at the same time: "…Cause they just some thug stealing / Slum Dwelling / Drug dealing, gun selling / And a hundred yard dashing after doing purse snatching / Damn savages who ravages in buckets of Kentucky Fried Chicken / With the first dibs on the ribs / Looking like a damn monkey on the football field and basketball courts / taking over sports / leaving us just the golf and tennis…" The track is so creative and original many people will want to hear it again and again. "Epiphany" is another wonderful track with a mid-tempo beat and beautiful scratched hook, which uses both Q-Tip's voice and a sample of EPMD. Breeze has some wild lyrics as he kicks the track off: "Behold the fungus among us / When dabbling wit / Babbling I sends the battle scene to the apocalypse wit…" Many people will have to rewind as they think to themselves "What did he say?". The opening "Trouble Man" is a hard-hitting up-tempo track where Buddy Slim and Breeze kill the mic. It has the punch-your-face-in mid-90's quality to it along with an ill horn sample. "I'm Gonna Kill You" is a sinister track about situations getting out of hand. Once again, the beats and the rhymes work perfectly together creating an eerie and murderous atmosphere. "Jivetalk" has a deep bass line and a stoned-out slow beat reminiscent of "Tical" by Method Man. The background of Breezly chanting "Blahzey-blah, blahzey-blah" gets hypnotic along with the complementing beat. "Loosifa" is another eerie concept track where Breezly plays with his words very well. The subtle live guitar work along with the live violin works perfectly. Lyrically and musically, the track is deep.
Some excellent tracks are extremely short. Some of these tracks are old and have been remixed or re-worked. Like interludes, they are very short but the quality of the beat and rhymes are so strong that you want to hear more. "Luvamaxin" is a perfect example. Again, Breezly dazzles us with his wordplay as he makes a little track about the love of relaxation and doing things right. "Watch Ya Head (remix)" (produced by Breezly Bruin) is an extremely short track faded in and then faded out. The chanted hook and the samples in the background work so well a full-length version would have been fine. There's a little freestyle track called "Up At The Stretch Armstrong WKCR Radio Show" where Breezly proves that he is a master of wordplay. This cat cannot only rhyme well but he has mastered the art freestyle. "A Rainy Saturday" perfectly captures the mood as the title says. Short and sweet, the track glides along.
There are tracks that are very well executed but take time to grow on the listener. "You Gotta Do One Of These Songs" is a funny track about the pressures of writing. "Romper Room" is an interesting track that is not catchy at all. Lyrically, it is very deep. The two-part track "The Circle" has some very dope production. "The Circle Part II" (which comes before part one) is extremely short but effective. "The Circle Part I" (produced by Breezly Bruin) has an wonderfully deep funky loop. Both tracks are dope but need some listens to be fully appreciated.
Not every track is perfect but they all are of a high quality. "Sex Type Thing" is a little too long and not as deep or clever as the other tracks. Sure, Breezly rocks the mic and Slim does a great job on the beat but it does not amaze or thrill like the other songs. Here, sexual episodes turn to problems when "shorty" runs around the town and says that Breeze's "wood is tooken". The collaboration of "Who Makes It Hot" with Adagio is a decent track. Produced by Adagio, the song is a straight hip-hop track where they simply rhyme over and chant a chorus. There isn't a deep concept or anything mind-blowing. Still, it works well. "Projections" is a short interlude-type track for little sister Juggaknot, Heroine, to rock the mic. She does a good job but at the same time, it does sound a little out of place. Due to sample problems, The Juggaknots had to remix "Clear Blue Skies". Even though both versions are on the LP, the remixed version is nowhere near as dope as the original.
"Re:release" by The Juggaknots is almost a perfect LP. The beats and the production work perfectly together. Buddy Slim's production style (with some help of Chris Liggio and Breeze) is refreshing since there aren't any club or dance tracks. These are thick, funky loop-driven beats with some excellent scratches by DJ Eskimo and Sticky Fingas. Breezly Bruin steals the show when it comes to the microphone. Damn, this cat can rhyme. He's hungry, he's intelligent, he's wild and his flow is untouchable. Many times, the lyrics can go right over the listener's head. Whether making concept tracks, free styling, or straight spitting battle rhymes, Bruin has mastered the art of being an emcee. "Clear Blue Skies" LP has some minor little problems but they are so insignificant that they do not make the LP any less enjoyable. Since the beats are so dope and Bruin is such a great emcee, the replay value of the LP is very high. As a family, The Juggaknots are hungry and extremely talented. They also know their places. Buddy Slim is good on the mic but his true talent is in the production area while Bruin clearly takes control of the microphone. Putting Heroine in the background was a smart idea. She's talented but Bruin is clearly the lead emcee. A beautiful thing about this album is the overall feeling it creates. First, I could not help but say to myself "Damn! This is dope!" when I heard the album. Second, both the old and the new tracks have that hungry mid-90's hip-hop feel. It's a beautiful thing. Intelligent, wild, hungry, incredible rhymes over thick funky beats with scratches make dope hip-hop. It's their vision of hip-hop perfection. The Juggaknots' new album is as refreshing and inspiring as the beauty of "Clear Blue Skies".