The Pimps of Joytime

28 09 2007

By Derek Beres

New York City, in structure and sound, is a permanent transition, a go-between where cultures converge and conform and create. Salsa has roots here; hip-hop is a borough bedrock; funk and R&B has had many champions call this land home. The city is a song that continuously remixes itself, pulling parts from eclectic masterpieces and calling them its own. This movement is not a fusion as much as the constant replication of new strains of sonic DNA.

Many travel here with such dreams in mind, but natives have a particular edge. They were born into this borderless culture; it is as much a part of them as their skin, their voices, and the ten fingers strumming their guitars. So even though he did time on the left coast, Brian J returned to NYC in 2004 to leave his legend as The Pimps of Joytime. The three years between then and now have resulted in High Steppin (Wonderwheel), an exceptional blend of so many qualities of the city that it’s challenging to know where to even begin.

From the posturing of their press photos, one immediately assumes funk. The style fits the sound. Shades of the hyped and sexy strums of funk do lay a serious foundation, along with a heavy dose of Latin percussion and keys. Horns appear, then dissipate under the heady fog of bass. Turntablism plays an important duty- the other half of the original Pimps line-up is Black Pearl, a DJ that Brian J met in the early days. The guitars can blaze in serious rock accolades, and whisper melancholy chords of the blues diaspora.

Maybe it’s best summarized by Wonderwheel label head and DJ Nickodemus, one of the city’s finest tastemakers. “When I first listened to Brian’s demo, I heard the cross-cultural blend of the Bell Band, the catchy songwriting of the Brazilian Girls, the Afro funk groove of Antibalas, the smoothness of Si*Se and the Latin Rock of Radio Mundial. Most importantly, what I heard are songs, beautiful and honest songs that you learn the lyrics to, to sing over and over.”

It’s easy to hear why these songs stick. Production is top-notch, each groove is stitched for the pocket, and every hook hits you in the heart and head. High Steppin is the perfect alchemy of hip-hop influenced bass-heavy beats, tempered by animated synthesizers and ignited by New Orleans soul. This is gospel for the church with borders, a virtuous and inspired tincture for able hips and open minds.

With a collection of superb guests, including percussionist/vocalist Cyril Neville and Radio Mundial frontman Jean Shepherd, The Pimps of Joytime are selling some serious soul. Each second of these sixty-two minutes drips and bleeds with such enthusiasm and passion that it’s impossible not to get pulled into the dance. After you emerge for the first time, it will be you that sends yourself, again and again, into its grip.

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