Release Date: (2002, Matic Records)
Yes, to start things off properly, can you believe I’d NEVER heard the Juggankots’ “re: release” prior to this week? Well, at least the full album. I know, it’s a gotdamn shame, right!? The Juggaknots first generated underground shine via their show-stopping appearances on the Stretch & Bobbito show. Soon thereafter, when a record deal with famed Hip-Hop label Elektra (L.O.N.S., Pete & CL, Brand Nubian, etc.), Bobbito generously released a vinyl-only version of “Clear Blue Skies” on his storied Fondle ‘Em label in 1996. Similar to the majority of product that dropped on Fondle ‘Em, the record was O.O.P. (Out Of Print) before most cats witnessed the pure dope that could be found on “Clear Blue…”.
Born and raised in the BX, brothers Buddy Slim, who handled the gritty, unforgettable production on the album, and lyrical heavyweight Breezly Brewin kept busy with outside projects in the interim. One of those projects being the Prince Paul-classic “A Prince Among Thieves”, of which Breez absolutely murked. Still, it should be noted that the Juggaknots’ collaboration with J-Treds and Company Flow a.k.a. “Indelible MC’s” can also be found on the Lyricist Lounge compilation in 1998. Thankfully, 2003 would bring forth the reissue of “Clear Blue Skies’ (on CD, at that), as well as the addition of the group’s newest member, Queen Heroine.
Being that “Clear Blue Skies” is still very hard to find, it is often unfairly overlooked and today I’ll do my damndest to shed light on what was one of the more enjoyable listening experiences that I’ve had in the last 5 years or so. The first question that I pose is just “how could a record this good be unavailable for some damn long? Of course, I was very familiar with Brewin, dude was a lyrical beast on “Prince Among Thieves”, but hearing him within the context of a this LP has made one thing crystal clear: Breez is one of the nicest lyricists to pick up the M-I-C and delivery-wise is also one of the smoothest.
“Clear Blue Skies” reels you in immediately with B-Slim’s distorted, grimy beats, which mesh eerie jazz samples and thick, groggy drum patterns to create the perfect concoction. From the static and hisses, to the cuts and vocal slices, the production on this record is the definition of mid-’90s “True School” hip hop. You can’t front, a bundle of cats aimed to pull off this style of hip-hop, the Juggaknots are one of the few acts to have mastered it so effortlessly.
With a balance between sinister, narrative style tracks, battle style braggadocio, and the humor that was brought to the table on the Prince Paul LP, Brewin kills it on some unforgettable performance ‘ish, tirelessly showcasing his versatility as a emcee. From the opening lines of the “Backpack Banger”, “Trouble Man” to the surreal, cinematic raps on “Loosifa”, and the marathon syllable flipping of tracks like “Luvamaxin”, this dude blesses us with a hurricane of words and phrases, without even missing a breath. Whether you hate the Golden Era “sound” (I hate that word, BTW), don’t even care for hip-hop in the first place, or your still rockin’ a jansport, “Clear Blue Skies” (re: release) is a record you need to hear, again and again.