DJ Format
A Right Earful: Volume 1


ack in the 1960s, Carol King was so taken with the energy her babysitter showed whilst dancing that she penned a song for her, “The Locomotion”, and thus Little Eva entered the annals of pop history. In the 1980s, Stock Aitken and Waterman took a chance on their pasty-faced ginger tea boy, a certain Rick Astley, grabbing a good two years of chart ownership from him. And, for the 2000s, we’ve got DJ Format. He used to be Jurassic 5’s tour bus driver.

Of course, Jurassic 5 aren’t SAW or Goffin and King, they’re not hit factories, but you can still hear their influence on Format. That over-my-shoulder style, it’s not a fear of progress, just an agnosticism towards it. They don’t want evolution, devolution, or revolution. They just want… volution. You know the sound I’m talking about, that retro, late 80s block party, stop the violence and start the breakdancing vibe, with the occasionally goofy moment. All of that and more (including a J5 guest spot) featured on Format’s critically well-regarded debut album of last year, Music for the Mature B-Boy, whilst A Right Earful: Volume 1, sees the release of the first of his mixtapes for Antidote Records, a label more usually associated with music for the immature b-boy. It’s a pretty promising debut.

The one thing really of note with this album is that, even though his sole recorded contribution to the album is a remix of longtime recording partner Abdonimal and DJ Fase’s “Fast Food”, the entire album feels as if it could have been recorded by Format. It’s not so much a mixtape as an Under the Influence, except these are the tunes that really have influenced him, birthmarks on his career. So we get a ragbag of late 60s/early 70s beat-funk (a style tackled by the man himself on Music for the Mature B-Boy’s “Last Bongo In Brighton”, early 90s laid-back alt-hop, and a few current standouts.

So, having seen the mission statement, you can probably guess who’s lining up for album duty. Turning out for the early 90s school, there’s The Pharcyde, The Alkaholiks, Souls of Mischief, and Black Sheep, whilst from this decade there’s Edan, and probably the most unfairly maligned band in the critical melee, Ugly Duckling.

We might as well begin with the UD track, “Almond Rocha”. It’s business as usual, as the Duckling give us their standard old skooly rhyme structure and stoner roll call of kids TV characters and foodstuffs. Their grandfathers, The Pharcyde, also feature with “4 Better 4 Worse”, not exactly a standout in their back catalogue, but it has a hazy chorus and that one rapper with the funny voice, so you can’t not like it.

Something else you can’t not like, and, indeed, not love, is “Inner City Boundaries” by the hideously overlooked Freestyle Fellowship, which turns up early doors here on track three, as Aceyalone and chums come correct to an almost ridiculous degree, sax samples, garbled word delivery, it’s all over the place, yet its still in its place. An action painting of a song.

Also of special note: Madkap’s “Phuck What Ya Heard”, a 1993 UK hip-hop track that sounds like it was recorded in 1994, Souls of Mischief’s “A Name I Call Myself”, which has a MacGyver reference, and a nut-sweet end sequence, as Little Barrie, The Upsetters, and Gonzalez (no, not that one) line-up for a three-track beat-funk medley. Sure, some of the tracks on the album have little to no impact on the listener, but as a personal mission statement… it’s not really a mission statement, it’s like the listed sources at the end of Format’s thesis. These are where he got his ideas from. Hopefully it’s enough ideas to carry him forward to an equal great second studio album. If not, there’s always the tour bus.

Reviewed by: Dom Passantino

Reviewed on: 2004-05-14

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