I felt like the point needed to be made that JR & PH7 hail from Germany. But you wouldn’t ever know that listening to their album, aside from the few whispered shout outs to Germany via a few of the guest emcees present on The Update. After delivering their debut The Standard in 2009, JR & PH7 wasted no time getting back to the lab, collaborating with more stateside emcees and dropping off another solid project with their name and beats thumping.
If you grew up on vintage, 90s style NY boom bap and that’s what you love in your hiphop this is an album for you. It’s awesome to hear cats almost 4000 miles away create something that feels so perfectly crafted for a different time and place. But perhaps that’s just the American in me as we certainly aren’t exposed to what’s popular overseas on a regular basis while music created here is exported daily. Today things are little different as the interent shares everything with anyone willing to spend the time looking.
As producers you will hear samples chopped, drums and basslines loud enough to piss off the neighbors who sleep during the day so as to work that night shift, and a knowledge of appropriate emcees to fit their bangers. They grab Torae to get down on “Do It For You” where he lays down his story of how he got here and what he’s doing it for. Heartfelt sentiment over striking piano keys and a slow drum beat.
The one area of sound that JR & PH7 steer away from is they dusty, gritty and grimey sound that comes from sampling off records. Everything on this album is crisp. The sound is heavy and deep. Their German heritage couldn’t be escaped and I’d bet the country still houses some of the best record engineering technology in existence.
They make a generational Bean Town jam with Termanology and Ed O.G. getting down over awesome cymbal crashes and a scorching organ sample in the background. Their drums play like they are live which isn’t a common trait in much modern hiphop production, especially when it’s done on a drum machine via snagged sounds from another piece of music. The talent here is vast.
Evidence and L.E.G.A.C.Y. make a West coast meets East coast update to the WC classic “Bow Down.” These German brothers know what’s good, dropping in a quick snippet of the 90s monster of a track into the end of the beat, it sounds perfect and gives context to the modern update for anyone who wasn’t paying attention back then.
As the album plays through the production never stagnates. JR & PH7 utilize it all and aren’t afraid to place people outside the box of their typical sound. While Sean P could probably have utilized any of the beats on this album for a solo jawn in the last few years they team him up with Oliver DaySoul on the love ridden jam “Persuasion.” It’s fun, upbeat song that features a beat as far away from the street tales Rock is known for. Oliver also pops up on the awesome jam “Hustle & Flow” that sees Oddisee break down the truths of the music world, how you can’t ever give up, must always keep on it if you want to see your reality into a dream.
As a producer driven album The Update shouldn’t disappoint. These two were schooled on the classics and have taken the right path to delivering a classic sound updated to the modern era. Far to often I hear music that is “so 90s.” I don’t hate it, but I might hate on it. If you are gonna make something that sounds like it was made yesteryear don’t expect a modern day audience to embrace it. We all want throwback tunes, but throwback genres? No thanks, we all have the mp3s of those jams you wish you were making – and if we want that we will go to that, not your cheap 15 year too late imitation. End rant.
JR & PH7 embrace a new generation of emcees and make beats you haven’t heard before, with a freshness that feels like a breath of air. If this is what’s happening over seas I’d say I’d say hiphop never died, it just swam across an ocean.