Reviews

Mixtape Review: Jack Splash – King of the Beats, Vol. 1

by Marcus K. Dowling

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Download: JACK SPLASH – King of the Beats, Vol. 1

Jack Splash was frozen in place conducting a full symphony for Quincy Jones in 1981 at the Hollywood Bowl, unfrozen five years ago after being stored away for almost 30 years and was immediately dropped off at the Compton Swap Meet.

Jack Splash was frozen in place conducting a full symphony for Quincy Jones in 1981 at the Hollywood Bowl, unfrozen five years ago after being stored away for almost 30 years and was immediately dropped off at the Compton Swap Meet. This is the only answer for this man’s sound, style and voluminous talent. Trunk funk and classic soul needed a hero. We’ve strayed too far away as of late from formulaic sounds. Hip hop sounds like electro, electro sounds like house and disco, dancehall sounds like dubstep, and so on, and so forth. The preservation of classic musical elements without total compromise is a goal that very few in music attain at the present time. Let’s not forget that this man produced Alicia Keys’ “Teenage Love Afair,” one of the most swinging classic soul jams of quite some time. After listening to producer Jack Splash’s King of the Beats, it’s readily apparent that tradition is served, and served well, and is in the hands of a maestro from a forgotten era.

This mixtape succeeds when Jack Splash errs on the side of imitating his inspirations. Piano and synth heavy and ultra orchestra friendly, many find reason to think that because Splash’s production style trends toward “wall of sound” stylings, that there’s large handfuls of Phil Spector and Brian Wilson here. That’s a limiting description. That’s like saying that every rapper wants to be Biggie, Nas, Jay-Z or 2Pac. But to listen to this man requires going deeper, and looking to moody and aurally psychedelic and sensual types like Quincy Jones, Sly Stone and the Ohio Players, or the more straight ahead smooth gangsta dynamic of Isaac Hayes. There’s a definite blueprint being followed here when this mixtape succeeds that sets Jack Splash to the left, yet not ahead of the pack.

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His sound, at the direct point of synthesis between soul and funky hip hop breaks is not groundbreaking, it’s just great.

His sound, at the direct point of synthesis between soul and funky hip hop breaks is not groundbreaking, it’s just great. “The Maestro (Young Spector)” should be his signature mixtape track for every emcee in the universe, a Don Cannon “CANNON” type track that likely can’t go wrong with anyone flowing over it. “Disko Labyrinth” is beautiful, flutes and melodious mid-register piano with an insistent bass kick breakbeat. “Love is a Symphony” sounds like an Issac Hayes sample over a hip hop track, and “Welcome to the Dance” could’ve been a throwaway from Melanie Fiona’s surprising and adventurous retro trending pop debut.

This mixtape slows because of it’s desire to also meet industry expectations. Pushed single “King of the Beats” sounds like a track meant for bloggers and stylistically lost, struggling to make an impact DJs to attach to, hollow 808 kicks, dubbed synths and electro trills, the Clipse meeting Rusko not something anyone WANTS to hear, but everyone feels like they should. Also, “38 Special” is where we get to hear Jack Splash rap, and while Kanye stated that he “was a producer who could rap better than the rappers,” the same does not apply for Splash whose cadence appears forced, harsh and breathy, his inability to modulate and preserve his voice while spitting lyrics rearing its ugly head. And Cee-Lo being on the track, while exciting, only makes Splash look like a B-grade Dangermouse, as the track, all drum breaks and guitar licks, really isn’t a solid look for either, and is expected and pedestrian at best.

Does Jack Splash want to make money now, or set trends in the industry he can capitalize from later? On a sonic level, he’s pretty much exactly where he needs to be to make the impact he’s already made. However, the inclusion of club friendly and pop radio friendly elements on this mixtape show a desire in the artist for increased mainstream recognition. Is it possible to serve both the master of the musical mainstream while at the same time also respecting your desire to explore your roots and musical inspirations? This question looms on this mixtape and ultimately while enjoyable, only scratches the surface of this man’s motivations and talent.