In the decade since their inception, bay area collective The Jazz Mafia have taken many different forms. The latest of these forms is The Shotgun Wedding Quintet. The group’s sophomore album is Tales From the Barbary Coast.
Jazz Mafia’s sound was always fairly distinct; they mixed a live jazz band with hip hop vocalists. The same holds true for The Shotgun Wedding Quintet except the concept of the group is more well formed. On Tales From the Barbary Coast, the group’s emcee, Dublin only raps about the seedy underworld of the San Francisco bay area. The stories he tells have a distinct film noir style that remind me of L.A. Confidential. What makes the album a little odd is Dublin’s ability (or maybe inability) to keep the stories in one decade.
On “Too Hip to Live”, Dublin raps about his girlfriend who might be too hip to live. The tale has a 1950’s feel to it with the use of jive slang like “hip” in the title but the lyrics betray that pathos. Dublin raps “now she’s got me hooked on her breast again/next day she said she’s a lesbian/the day after, she’s hetro and let’s me in/she says she’s a mess my friend/found a real high on mescaline/she said “give my clothes to my next of kin”/ODing on drugs, who set this trend?” Although the story is not great, the ability to storytell while essentially rhyming one sound is fairly impressive.
While Dublin’s lyrics often follow inane rhyme schemes, I did enjoy his voice quite a bit. His rapping reminds me a little of Buck 65. He has a low gruff voice. He shows off his voice particularly well on tracks like “Vertigo,” where Dublin does nothing more than talk. The talking really adds to the film noir-style and works great with the music. The only time I did not enjoy Dublin’s vocal work was on tracks like “Shanghai Kelly.” During “Shanghai Kelly”, Dublin bust into a more melodic flow similar to Lyrics Born. The only problem with this is Dublin does not have the same golden pipes as Lyrics Born so the style does not work quite as well.
In the end, the combination of Dublin’s voice and the album’s pathos really gel together. The gimmick does feel a little lame at times but for the cross-section of fans that enjoy both Buck 65 and 1950s film noir, Tales From the Barbary Coast is a solid listen.