Quazar - Maquacosmz
Originally from Brooklyn, but now repping the Chicago area, HipHop producer Quazar has done the unthinkable; he has made Maquacosmz, an album he is stubbornly persistent enough to call jazz. It's a bold claim. Bold enough that I chose to review it on that basis alone. Quazar's musical sensibilities and influences range greatly and are generally felt on each track. From funk, soul, gospel, and hiphop to the synthesized sound of early eighties breakdance records. It's all here. But is it jazz? That's the question that first peaked my interest.
Well, it's certainly not as safe as smooth jazz (think Kenny G); but it's also not nearly dangerous enough to be considered experimental (though it goes there from time to time). It's also too electronic to be considered standard jazz--in the sense of let's say a Joshua Redman album. But yes, it does somehow fall into its own jazz niche at the end of the day. And though Quazar gives an actual definition for jazz during the album's intro, that's the beauty of jazz, isn't it? How it often defies definition altogether.
The sound is synth-heavy. Full of lush pads, phaser and echo fx, with vocal samples sprinkled sparingly throughout. And though he hiphopifies the theme song to The Black Panther, the most ambitious song on the entire album is "Hello Children", an interpolation of Stevie Wonder's "Jesus Children of America". This is a fantastic cover that most producers wouldn't have the balls to even attempt, and Quazar really made it his own.
"Da Sak" and "In My Zone" are both cool hiphop jazz joints. One with some Jay snippets, the other with Nas. Can't go wrong with that. But my absolute favorite song on here is "Spinning The World (feat. DJ V digga)". The drum patterns are crazy; the sound is cinematic in scope; and the record scratching towards the end seals the deal.
I have two microcosmic qualms for Maquacosmz (try to say that fast five times). First off, it was entirely too long. I got it as a download that didn't all fit on one CD. This was a major problem for me, as I wanted to listen to it in my car (which I was only able to do by eliminating a song). In this current generation of chatting, tweeting, and texting, we need things short and sweet. To the point. At least I do, any way. It's an easy fix. Three of the seventeen songs are over seven minutes long, and many are over six. My second problem might just be a matter of taste. Though Quazar's drums are "in the pocket" as they say, keeping in line with the jazz tradition, he could have taken a few more risks in this area. Rather than having a steady rhythmic bed as the backdrop for most or all of the songs, he could have experimented a bit more with time signature. Get out of the 4/4 mentality. Switch rhythms and/or melodies completely mid-way, and so forth. Frequent change-ups would definitely keep a long track from losing its luster.
But at the end of it all, Maquacosmz is a record dripping with funk. Full of life. It's complicated enough to study, and moody enough to keep playing in the background as you go about your day-to-day business. It's a moment of growth and personal evolution when an artist branches out and does something different from what even they themselves are used to. But Quazar has done just that. A risk that in my book, has paid off. I look forward to his next jazz installment.
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