In hip-hop, fat beats are the only ones that matter. You never hear people clamouring for skinny rhythms, or asking the DJ to drop a well-proportioned beat. No, like fry-ups or sumo wrestlers, the bigger the beat the better.
DJ Jab clearly understands this; he did, after all, name his record shop Fat Beats. Originally opening in Manhattan and at one point having shops in both Amsterdam and Atalanta, it sadly closed its doors in 2010, having been a pillar of hip-hop retail for almost twenty years. Trinity, a collaboration between Jab, AG (aka Andre the Giant, best known as the latter half of Diggin’ in the Crates Crew’s Showbiz and AG) and Brand Nubian’s Sadat X, was originally conceived as a way of promoting the shop, with their recent album “20 In” created so they had something to sell on tour.
The shop’s closure instead makes “20 In” a fitting tribute. A homage to the hip-hop scene that spawned, sustained and was celebrated by Fat Beats, the album has a distinctly old school vibe, enhanced by DJ Jab managing to convince Sadat X and AG to completely dispense with swear words. It’s a testament to their rapping that you don’t really notice.
Jab recently explained the process to Mass Appeal: “I pulled out the conscious sides of them and brought them back to the days when hip-hop albums existed and naturally there was no profanity on them. Almost every song has a purpose that I did some research on. I would propose the idea for the song to them and have facts to write on”. Thus you get tracks that run from ‘The Bronx’, a potted history of the NY borough from 1609 to the present, to observations on crack addiction (the flute-flaunting ‘Then & Now’) and fatherhood (‘Influence’, which could almost be a lost A Tribe Called Quest track).
The album is strictly old-school in every respect, which does mean that, at seventeen tracks, there’s a wee bit of filler. The highlights, however, come thick and fast. The organ-drenched ‘Rap Attack’ is a stone-cold killer, while ‘Corrupt’ makes good use of both saxophone samples and an appearance from Immortal Technique, gleefully spitting lines like: “You know when the cops are coming to get ya / Tryin’ to light you up like Nikola Tesla”.
Elsewhere, ‘Sometimes’ manages to fit an insane amount of guests into less than three minutes including Slug, Ill Bill and Grand Puba, while the Roy Ayers-sampling, Dilla produced ‘Sunshine’ is evocative of People Under The Stairs at their best. DJ Jab’s evangelism comes through a bit too blatantly on ‘My Way’, but that’s one of the few moments where it drags.
The love for hip-hop always shines through though, with Jab indicating in past interviews that he wants to reclaim it: “Hip hop isn’t thugged-out life or a ridiculous amount of tattoos or wearing your pants looking like a fool. That’s not hip hop. That’s a rap persona that people put on”. The future for Trinity may be uncertain with all three members having their own distinct paths, but if anyone’s going to reclaim rap then it might as well be them.