Record label: Stones Throw
Format: 2xLP/CD
Release date: April 2004

Okay, I think we both know that Yesterday’s New Quintet is really one man, indie hip-hop hero Otis Jackson Jr. a.k.a. Madlib. But it’s more fun to play along, so let’s travel down that road. Angles Without Edges was the last proper full-length given to the world by this elusive five man troupe. While certainly impressive, not all were fully convinced by producer/arranger Madlib’s jazz outings. Perhaps the hip-hop that came before seemed more fluid to some. Somewhere along the way, the two styles would interweave, with jazz leading the way. Take Madlib’s Shades of Blue: a prime example of a son’s interpretation of the father. What does it mean when that album’s more YNQ than the quintet own output? And what does it mean when YNQ sound more at home performing other people’s music?

The Stevie album first appeared as a promotional item through Triple 5 Soul. Just by listening to their renditions of “Superstition” and “That Girl,” you could tell that Ahmad, Joe, Malik, and the rest were in a zone. One can envision Madlib in the corner of a smoked-out studio, head nodding in agreement while a portrait of Steveland Morris looms large behind him on a wall. Okay, maybe that’s a bit much, but you know I’m right about the weed smoke. YNQ’s translation of the Wonder classics is jazz made by and for hip-hop heads. Some of this energy is bound to show up on the next album of original material. For a premonition of things to come, check those solo EPs on wax by members of the quintet (Joe McDuphrey’s is especially worth picking up).

{downtempo don}

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