More than during any period of its history previous or since, NYC hip-hop in the ’90s fixated on streets-centric authenticity. Being “real” â€“ musically, ethically, biographically â€“ was paramount. From their first release, however, Brooklyn’s Jigmastas proudly defined themselves by nobody’s measure of validity but their own. While others chased the so-called real, DJ Spinna and Kriminul claimed “Beyond Real,” the title of their 1996 independent single on the label of the same name, a debut gem that established their M.O. as purveyors of sonic sophistication and everyman truths.
Formed in 1991 in the County of Kings, this DJ/ producer-emcee combo in the tradition of Gang Starr and Pete Rock & CL Smooth showed enough promise to spark considerable, though ultimately unconsummated, major label interest. Such apparent setbacks would prove fortuitous, though, as the Jay I Gees found themselves amongst the important participants in a burgeoning NYC underground hip-hop movement alongside pre-Rawkus indie crews like Co Flow, Natural E and Bobbito Garcia’s Fondle ‘Em camp.
As subsequent releases more than aptly demonstrated (the metaphorical minded “Chandon”; a “World Is Yours”-esque paean to self-determination, “Iz You Dee”; the purist manifesto “Hip-Hop” etc.) being beyond real wasn’t just a philosophical ethos but a musical one as well â€“ Spinna’s predilection for Moog synth riffs, vocal chorales, and other inventively chopped and diced samplescapes complementing Krim’s gravelly verses with an otherworldly air. Jigmastas dropped a single LP â€“ 2001’s Infectious â€“ during the duo’s most active period. But the collection of non-album material that forms the core of this fine sequel (or prequel given the bonus inclusion of so many essential early singles) that you now hold in your possession serves as a reminder of the potency and timelessness of their talents. From Spinna’s classic breakbeat dissections on “Lyrical Fluctuation 2000” through Kriminul’s effortlessly fluid performance on “Thief’s Theme” some might call this that vintage NY boom-bap. A more accurate, and complimentary, descript is that it simply sounds like the Jigmastas. Long may they keep on rockin’.