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Joint Ventures: Itz Da Joint (1993)

November 8, 2012

Roll: 7-11-8
Album: Joint Ventures, Itz Da Joint

So if I were to lay my cards on the table, my hand might reveal that I can find something to appreciate in almost any old-school or golden age hip-hop album. It might only be a killer sample, a clever bon mot, or just the ponk-ponk of an 808 cowbell. But there’s always something. Which is probably how I’m perfectly content to own more than one Candyman CD.

But even if the DJ’s beats are thin or an MC’s rhymes are full of cringe-worthy bravado, there’s still something enchanting about almost any hip-hop record from before 1995. A specific period in a culture’s history was documented in thousands of post-modern mini-operas in a way rock’n’roll never really accomplished. For a middle-class white boy growing up in Pacific North-West, it was a window into a world as alien and magical as those created by JRR Tolkien or Gene Roddenberry. Perhaps the depiction of ’80s and ’90s African-American culture on these albums isn’t really much more realistic or less fantastical than Star Trek, but it’s just as entertaining and I’ve always found it more immersive than the too painfully close-to-home depictions of white, middle-class slackerdom by Sebadoh or Pavement.

But just when I think I’ve submerged myself in this culture, I find I’ve only dipped a toe in a vast ocean. While researching a more well known crew, another gem (or diamond in the extremely rough) I never knew existed will always surface. Why they’d passed under my radar is often clear—even a killer sample and a clever bon mot, a classic does not make. Yet, occasionally I stumble upon something that makes me say “Why wasn’t this huge?” Or at least something I’d heard of.

Joint Venture‘s (rather predictably titled) Itz Da Joint from 1993 is one of these under-appreciated discs. With solid, social-minded rhymes and heavy funk and soul samples, the album rolls like a smooth ghetto-juggernaut through the mean streets of Boston. It’s almost impossible to imagine the fuzz riff from “Somethin’ For The Head” wasn’t blaring out of boomboxes and low-rider Caddies from coast to coast, but in 1993 they probably didn’t use the words “dick”, “pussy” and “spliff” quite enough to catch people’s attention.

Though their vibe is closer to Cypress Hill than 2 Live Crew, it’s harder to put a finger on that Joint Ventures are all about than either of those groups. Cypress’s marketing could be boiled-down to the word, Marijuana, and 2 Live’s down to Sex. An artist needs to represent one single idea to be effectively marketed to the public and Joint Ventures represented several, but none explicitly enough to be their gimmick.

They’re not as overtly political as Public Enemy (Black Power) and don’t have a big party anthem like House of Pain (Irish).They don’t celebrate Gangsta culture like N.W.A. but aren’t really on the Positive tip like De La Soul. And though above par, frankly the MCs simply aren’t quite as charismatic or distinctive as someone like Eazy-E or Tupac which might be the ultimate reason their sole platter seems relegated to footnote status.

It’s an undeserved fate since it’s quality from start to finish and rewards repeat listens. Given enough time to sink in, it rivals EPMD or Pete Rock & CL Smooth at the top of their games.

Ain’t It a Shame

Somethin’ For The Head

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