Strong Arm Steady: In Search Of Stoney Jackson 

Strong Arm Steady: In Search Of Stoney Jackson 

Strong Arm Steady did more than just survive after its biggest star, Xzibit, left in 2006: It thrived. First, the trio signed to Talib Kweli’s Blacksmith label. Then it hooked up with sonic mad scientist Madlib, who produced the entirety of its remarkable, filler-free new album In Search Of Stoney Jackson. Madlib digs deep into his bag of tricks for a virtuoso display of psychedelic soul loops, fuzzed-out electric blues, and trippy instrumentals like “Telegram” and the rare “Intro” and “Outro” that won’t have listeners reaching for the fast-forward button. Jackson is Madlib’s show, but rappers Phil Da Agony (of Likwit Crew semi-fame), Krondon, and Mitchy Slick contribute appealingly loopy song concepts on standout tracks like “Smile,” a succinct homage to dental hygiene, and “Chitlins & Pepsi,” which beats the drum for a healthy diet while shouting out Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, and the earth goddesses who shop there. Kweli, Evidence, Oh No, and former member Planet Asia contribute stellar guest turns (Asia appears on three tracks), but Little Brother/Foreign Exchange’s Phonte delivers the disc’s best lines when he notes that when “poor folks need help they call it welfare / but rich folks need it then y’all call it a bailout” and quips “I’m black, I was born a financial crisis.” For an in-demand producer like Madlib, it might not be good business to give some of his most stunning beats to a relatively unknown group, but Jackson is brilliant enough to elevate Strong Arm Steady to the level of cult heroes.

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