J-Boogie's Dubtronic Science

By Masta G

This deep mix from San Franciscan hip hop DJ J-Boogie is one of this month's unexpected gems, combining as it does hip hop, dub, nu soul and afrobeat into a satisfying, complex and virtually seamless blend of future soul music. San Francisco is already associated with deep west coast hip hop (think Quaanum and Blackalicious) and this veteran DJ faithfully represents its mellow, conscious sound, selecting choice cuts and a variety of his own remixes. The credits (J-Boogie – turntables) along with the hiss and pop of a needle on vinyl at the beginning make it clear that this is a live exercise in turntablism: there's no digital trickery in evidence here, just slick beat matching and inventive cutting.

The opening few tunes take in dubwise excursions and righteous exhortations from Tony Moses on vocals, setting a laid-back tone, with contributions from Rob Symeonn and a Nightmares On Wax-style head nodder from Variable Unit. The styles shift into downtempo, hip hop and soul, though J-Boogie preserves a hypnotic pattern of basslines (think Dubtronic Science), which maintain the momentum and coherence of the mix. Live instrumentation also creates a sense of continuity, with appearances from sitar, sax and flute adding interest to many of the instrumental tracks. Vocal colour comes from nu soul heroes like Dwele and Amp Fiddler, with the latter's excellent Dreamin' edging delightfully smoothly into the mix. The broken beat inflected soul of London based DKD's Brighter Day keeps things bubbling with its polished expression of hope for the future.

The tempo picks up towards the end of the mix, with elements of house/afrobeat and a dirtier, funkier vibe emanating from tracks like Mark Rae's Mind Body and Soul. One of J-Boogie's own efforts features the distinctive tones of P.E.A.C.E from the Freestyle Fellowship alongside fellow San Franciscan Raashan Ahmad. There's also an offering from Brighton's own Quantic with Sonny Akpan giving a spoken lesson in African farming methods. For me, the soul/hip hop/dub elements are more appealing than the four-to-the-floor style with which the mix ends, but that's not to say that it doesn't all blend smoothly together. Many DJ mixes have come increasingly to rely on mind and genre bending fusions designed to impress precisely because they are implausible, so it's good to hear someone who's just happy to keep the music and the good vibes flowing.
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