As another year passes us by, the albums that came to define our characters get a little bit older. Consigned to the effects of time, many albums that connected intrusively seem to gather dust not only physically but also in our consciousness.
Every now and again, the joy of revisiting an album can be a momentous occasion and often the reactions and ramifications on the desired listener can alter from that first listen.
One of those albums is the slept-on classic of Funky DL’s Blackcurrent Jazz, which this year celebrates its fifteenth year anniversary, one of the last great Hip Hop/Jazz albums to come out of Britain that truly sounded as innovative and juicy as the title suggests.
Funky DL a.k.a Naphta Newman, hails from the now gentrified area of London known as Hackney. Back before the hipsters and yuppies took over the E5 postcode, the district was seen as a no-go area of gun violence, drugs and crime. He was, and still remains, an illusive underground character of the UK Hip Hop scene, self-releasing the bulk of his music through his own label, Washington Classics.
By 2001, DL was a respected producer and emcee that, like so many talented British artists of the era, never got the break of the mainstream or perhaps never wanted it. By the time of the release of Blackcurrent Jazz, the LP hardly got an ounce of recognition or promotion, and was shelved as another UK Hip Hop release that would never stand the test of time. A small section of hardcore fans hailed the album as the pinnacle of the British scene, yet the notoriety of Funky DL never materialised.
Fifteen years on, and revisiting the album in its entirety for the first time in what seems a lifetime, it’s still virtually an unknown entity among even the most passionate of music aficionados, which only adds to its romanticism.
From the start, the rich jazz samples wash over the receptors like a cool ocean breeze, gently caressing with delicate ease—from the polished double bass rhythm of “Talk About” to the masterful piano prowess of “Hit Me.”
As soon as Track 3, “& Ask For DL” kicks in you know you’re in for a classic. An ensemble of artistry split into two parts in possibly DL’s greatest song.
It starts with a wonderful piano medley over a bass heavy syncopated beat before the Londoner takes to the mic with pure control: “Represent for London Hackney E5 so what, Don’t watch my movements kid as long as the beat is hot, So take your wages kid and got to the record shop, And ask for D, D, D, D.L.‘’
The second half is a beautiful harp riff complimented oh so elegantly by DL’s prophesizing on growing up to the sounds of A Tribe Called Quest and the struggles of inner city life. It’s the perfect reflection tune, when you just need a bit of time to yourself to restore your faith in humanity.
“Keeping It Classic” is also a majestic tune, an undoubted homage to the rappers who made DL who he is: JAY Z, Biggie, Rah Digga, to name a few. Like the rest of the album, it entwines so effortlessly with the overall message of love and tranquility. No hardcore gangsta-infused, gun-loving lyrics, just pure good vibrations.
This album is pure quality. Whether you’re a jazzman or Hip Hop head, it’s bound to connect with you harmoniously and leave a lasting effect.
Since its release, a consistent stream of albums has helped Funky DL become a solid figure within the underground as well as gain a heavy following internationally, particularly in Japan. His 2014 tribute album to Nujabes (the legendary Japanese producer) and Dilla is also a must listen for anyone who likes jazzy, conscious flow.
For now, let’s revel in this overlooked masterpiece and give it the respect it deserves.