Nothing hurts a Hip Hop artist more than bad production. In these days and times, it doesn't matter if you can rap, as long as you have a great beat and a catchy hook. Athletic Mic League's sophomore release, "Jungle Gym Jungle", is an album that features strong hooks, well-crafted lyrics, but unfortunately disappointing production.
Detroit's seven man crew, consisting of six emcees and one DJ, is most notably known for their excellent debut album "Sweats And Kicks". However, that was then, and this is now. With the group looking to make a bigger impact, "Jungle Gym Jungle" takes a different direction than their debut. "JGJ" is definitely a well-crafted album with something for everyone; however, the production side does not hold its own.
The album's producers, the Lab Technicians offer a wide range of production sounds on 'Jungle Gym Jungle". At times, the Technicians can provide AML with the perfect sound needed to convey their message. While at other times, their inconsistent synthesizer production fails to blend with the group's distinct vibe, leaving many awkward and lifeless efforts.
"Feel It" is a prime example of the Athletic Mic League's problems on the album. With a choppy beat that travels all over the place, its hard to actually "feel" what AML is talking about. "Lasersteps" is a similar effort, as the tracks synth beat and flaring sirens travel excessively fast, leaving no time for the listener to soak everything in. The aptly titled track leaves your head spinning and by the time its over you will have no clue what you just listened to.
The main problem plaguing the production on the album is its lack of depth. Instead of digging in the crates, the Lab Technicians continually shovel out repetitive keyboard driven beats that either end up being over or under produced. "Watch Me" is proof of this, as the track encompasses a simple drum pattern and heavy bassline. While on the other hand, the album's title track "Jungle Gym" is over produced, as the flavorless beat constantly changes to no avail.
However, not all is lost on "Jungle Gym Jungle", as the Athletic Mic League is able to recapture some of their dominance that was seen on "Sweats and Kicks". "Xoom" is one of the few synthesizer beats that do work well on the album. Following in the footsteps of Jay-Dee, the track borrows his distinct handclaps and bouncy bassline. And while its almost impossible to distinguish each emcee from each other, the group blends together perfect on tracks such as "Xoom". This precise chemistry is also seen on "Team Player 2", which combines a singsong hook with a throbbing drum pattern. "Take 'Em High" is the albums most energetic effort, as the playful party track is extremely infectious. On the more hardcore side of things, "People Mover" and "Birth Control" definitely hit hard on both the production and lyrical side.
Even though AML knows how to rock a party or provide you with dazzling lyrics, they also know how to produce conceptual material as well. The finest of these being "Blinders", an amazing song dedicated to everyone who cannot seem to find themselves in this world. The uplifting track is truly one of the group's best efforts, as they not only provide a message but an answer to the problem, which is something that is lacking in the Hip Hop community. "Whatchuknow" is another great concept track, as the group delves into a topic every man can relate to, their woman not understand them. While simple, AML addresses such issues as watching sports or even getting a haircut. "You must not know about a nigga and his hair. A new man with a cut so mean, convinced you can pull the next young thing strutting down the street". Simple yes, but everyone can certainly relate to it.
The Athletic Mic League is a talented group of emcees that bring a lot of diversity to the table. "Jungle Gym Jungle" is a good album that highlights this talent; however, the album's inconsistent production keeps it from being great. Hopefully next time the crew gathers some better beat makers that are truly able to elevate the group to greatness.