The Groove Seeker: J Rocc’s Some Cold Rock Stuf

On a weekly basis, The Groove Seeker goes in search of killer grooves across rock, funk, hip hop, soul, electronic music, jazz, fusion, and more.

J Rocc: Some Cold Rock StufJ Rocc: Some Cold Rock Stuf (Stones Throw, 3/8/11)

J Rocc: “Play This (Also)”

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One of the most important figures in DJing and turntablism over the past two decades, J Rocc is finally releasing his debut effort of original cuts titled Some Cold Rock Stuf.  Original in all senses of the word, J Rocc has amazed audiences from Los Angeles to Tokyo with a distinct style that began by co-founding the landmark DJ crew the Beat Junkies in the early ’90s with Melo-D and Rhettmatic.

Along with fellow beat junkie Babu, and the likes of Mix Master Mike and Q-Bert of the Invisible Skratch Piklz, J Rocc was a part of the pioneering scene that brought respect back to the DJ, establishing the turntable as instrument while forging a new path towards instrumental hip hop.

The DJs from that scene went on to be the rhythmic backbone for some of our favorite hip-hop acts, and J Rocc is no exception.  He has become Stones Throw’s resident turntablist with a number of mixtapes reaching legendary status in the underground hip-hop scene.  In addition to being the long-time DJ for Madlib and the late J Dilla, who all three form Jaylib, the California-based DJ has toured the world, sharing the stage with everyone from MC Supernatural to Talib Kweli and Mos Def’s Blackstar.

But Some Cold Rock Stuf is really nothing like what J Rocc has done in the past. Listeners will not be hearing a mixtape of any sort, nor will they get the technical scratching and beat juggling of the DJ record.  Instead, J Rocc does original production work a la DJ Shadow/Cut Chemist, delivering a largely instrumental record of self-contained tracks, a funky collection that shows reverence for the break beat, jazz, soul, disco, and hip hop.

The album kicks off in classic DJ-battle style with “Rocchead’s Delight,” with J Rocc cycling through hip-hop samples, slicing them up in a way so you’ll forever remember his name.  Though this juggling is something of J Rocc’s calling card, he keeps it to a fair minimum, only slightly peppering tracks with technique and launching into the smoky down-tempo song “Don’t Sell Your Dream (Tonight).”

The record takes its turn at a lot of different tempos and feels, spaced out in excellent pace from J Rocc’s intuitive understanding of the break.  Stand-out piece “Malcom Was Here (Part 1+2)” showcases free-jazz-saxophone sound bites and samples that come together organically with ride-heavy jazz rhythms.  Though Part 1 makes a smooth transition into part 2, J Rocc makes a complete 180-degree turn into a bass-heavy hip-hop beat.  Tracks like “Stop Trying” and “Thru The Tulips” tap into the same deep groove with classic boom-bap feels, given slight face-lifts with sets of auxiliary percussion and simple soul-brass samples.

As the record progresses and picks up speed, J Rocc parlays up-tempo break beats with choice samples from all kinds of groove spectrums.  The lengthy track “Party” is equipped with classic “party” atmospherics like bells, whistles, and sirens.  Yet J Rocc flawlessly blends India-inspired snippets and infectious Latin-tinged horn lines within the track’s thumping, disco-flavored rhythm section.  “Play This (Also),” which fleshes out the bonus beats on the Play This Too 12” EP that was released late last year, follows the same mantra.  The track’s furious drum beat scuttles through reverb-tinged atmospherics, from ‘60s Parisian vocals with horns to match to dirty electric-funk-guitar riff-raffing.

A long time coming, this triple-LP / double-disc debut doesn’t stop with Some Cold Rock Stuf.   Each package contains a mystery record/disc with more material from J Rocc.  With three mystery discs in rotation and only one per album, it gives fans extra incentive, especially those long-time crate diggers.  Raw turntablist funkiness from the original beat junkie, Some Cold Rock Stuf is a grand debut of 20-plus years of master crafting.

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