Jamal Ski is an interesting artist who blends Hip Hop with Reggae seamlessly and stays true to both disciplines uncomprisingly and with integrity. His Debut album "Roughneck Reality" was released in 1993 on Columbia/Sony. Despite it's corny artwork it's a solid release. The album is produced very well, and features mostly jazz samples. It was produced primarily by Jamal and others such as T Ray(produced too many people to mention, is also a well known and avid crate digger), Skeff Anselm (who has done production work with A Tribe Called Quest), and DJ Parker Lee. The album was co-executive produced by Faith Newman who also had a hand in Nas' career by executive producing the classic "Illmatic" album alongside MC Serch. The production is impressive because of all the layers of sounds on the tracks, the hundreds of little sound bites, and the frequent changes throughout many of the songs. It really is at times quite complex sounding.
The vocals stay true to Reggae Dancehall styles. However, there is actually one track that is a freestyle by little known rapper Akbar that is pure no nonsense Hip Hop. Jamal also keeps the album lively by changing subject matter throughout. This album ranges from the streets, to sex, to knowledge, to wisdom, and does so quite creatively.
Jamal himself has an interesting history. His father was a Jazz drummer, and because of that affiliation Jamal has met jazz legends like Thelonius Monk. He attended New York University for a year, and left to Oregon where he was in Reggae and Ska bands. He then moved back to New York and got increasingly involved in Hip Hop. Jamal became involved with the legendary Hip Hop B-Boy outfit The Rocksteady Crew, and even appeared on Boogie Down Productions 1990 album "Edutainment."
I have included some tracks here that hopefully show the diversity of the album and of the man himself. "Medallion Masters Human Beat" is a straight up Reggae Dancehall song, "Akbars Groove" is straight up Hip Hop, and "Jump Spread Out" is Hip Hop, Reggae styles, and Jazz samples put together in probably the most cohesive way I have ever heard. The last track (Jump Spread Out) also has a sample from "Rainbow Seeker" by Joe Sample of The Crusaders, a Jazz Fusion band which I have covered before in a previous post. If you want this album you can get it here: Roughneck Reality.
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