I saw DJ Nu-Mark live with the Jurassic 5 circa 2002/03 at First Avenue in Minneapolis. It was an action-packed show with everyone adding to the experience, but I always found myself most curious as to what Nu-Mark was doing. He had an assortment of different tricks, instruments, and other intriguing things going on…the same sentiment can be said of his new album, “Broken Sunlight”.
Nearly everything about the making, releasing, and marketing of this record is teeming with creativity. The process started with Nu-Mark releasing a series of 10” that represent the full album save for one song, track number one on the album. Even if you were a die-hard fan who added every 10” to your collection that does not diminish the album experience. The CD version comes with three discs. Disc one contains the original album. Disc two is a CD-Rom with the album Instrumentals, Acapellas, and Radio Versions! Disc three is a DVD, which I have had an opportunity to watch yet (I’m notoriously bad at never watching album included DVDs), but is listed as having on the road, performance and studio footage. There is also the super sweet USB version of the album, which contains all the versions listed above, but it’s greatest appeal is that it is designed as a full-scale replica of a turntable needle cartridge, very stylish. The USB also includes studio photos with some of the collaborative artists, art for all the 10” singles, and some other little fun stuff. Or you can kick it Old School and get the 2XLP version on vinyl.
The album sounds and moods are extremely varied. About half of the album features MCs: some are well known and others lesser known. Of the lesser-known MCs, the best track is the album opener “Times Is Rough” featuring Tiron. J-Live makes a great vocal contribution on “Tonight” (w/vocalist Erica Dee) showcasing the witty rhymes he has built a reputation with. The Bumpy Knuckles track is rugged, but street sophisticated. Perhaps the best of the MC tracks is Large Professor’s “When You Sleep”. Nu-Mark constructs a perfect musical background for the Professor to go to work. This is the one MC collaboration that I immediately wished would yield more work together.
Beyond that, the album branches out to a variety of genres, primarily ones that were the biggest influences on the existence of Hip Hop. “Tough Break” is a up-tempo, drum heavy driving beat to force the B-boys and B-girls to the dance floor. Aloe Blacc & Charles Bradley combine forces for a soulful ballad with “Don’t Play Around”, where the voices an vocal styles contrast quite nicely. I suppose I was most impressed and caught off guard by the appearance of Ernie Hines and their remaking of his soul classic, “Our Generation”, what many 90s heads will recognize as the sample source for Pete Rock and CL Smooth’s “Straighten It Out”. The reworked version sounds great and effectively captures the soul and mood of the original. “The Fever” has a throwback club feel, but is creatively composed and is likely to be a favorite among DJs, like myself. My 80s Rap ears particularly like his use of CJ Moore of Black By Demand’s vocal sample, “The fever locked ya…because I heat like a fireball!” “Tropicalifornia” features Quantic and has a Latin-Islander feel to it. Wear your Salsa shoes for this one. The dance floor should remain filled with “Oya Indebure”, which features percussionist Laudir de Oliveira (known for his work with Sergio Mendes and Chicago). It has a high-energy call and response funkiness to it, which seems appropriate for an outdoor festival with traditional Regalia Outfits suitable for free-spirited and expressive dancing.
“Broken Sunlight” confirms Nu-Mark is still uninhibited in his musical passions, boundless in his creativity and forward pushing in genre explorations and fusions. All that, plus he is also invested in ensuring the listener has the maximum experience. Rarely has something broken worked so well…
Written By Kevin Beacham