(Machete Ish Records, digital download)
Jynx Inc have been creating hip-hop in southern Vermont for more than a decade now. Inspired by the dark, uncompromising styles of acts such as Army of the Pharaohs, Swollen Members and Jedi Mind Tricks, they've carved out a distinct niche in the local scene. Now core members Eyedos and Krypto Man are expanding their reach, lining up tour dates and releasing a new album, Machete Medley, which collects some of their best recent work.
The production, mostly handled by Eyedos, alternates between "just right" and "not enough." The beats aim toward hypnotic repetition, but results vary. "Forbidden Fruit" nails a pocket, but the same minimalism falls flat on "Titans" and "Last Chance Saloon." At the other extreme, tracks such as inspirational banger "Push Once More" or the trap-pop layering of "Outa Control" make it clear there's a lot of potential here.
The album opens with its worst track, "Supha Buddha Burna," a Casio-sounding ode to being stoned. Sample bars: "Tell you to clean out your ears and vape this here wax / on cloud nine, shooting the shit like an angel with a gat."
Things improve considerably from there, but the album remains haunted by poor quality control and flat performances. Both Eyedos and Krypto Man share a similar cadence — insistent, rough-edged, but oddly muted. Throughout Machete Medley, their more charismatic collaborators often outshine them.
Many of those guest spots are surprisingly high profile. Foul-mouthed battle legend Copywrite delivers an effortless gem alongside Vermont expat BURNTmd on "GITM." "Three Wize Men" features the super-prolific Canadian emcee Moka Only. The album takes a sharp turn with "Outa Control," a party anthem bookended by appearances from Intrinzik and Johnny Richter, the latter of the Kottonmouth Kings.
They also spotlight local talent, such as former Jynx Inc member Ruff NEK, aka Whyte Devil, aka Big Dex. Brattleboro artist Capa 3 makes three appearances, including standout "Pick Your Poison," a concept track about GMO conspiracies.
The sound quality is consistently inconsistent. That's inevitable with a collection of tracks spanning a few years. Besides, as a testament to their local scene — and a love letter to 1990s hip-hop projects you could only find online — it's on point.
Yet it's hard to say if genre faithful will embrace Machete Medley. Gone are the days when homemade CD-Rs could start careers and college radio stations could launch record labels. Between the big-budget tour productions of Tech N9ne to the technical chops and killer hooks of young artists such as Hopsin or Joey Bada$$, even underground rap is major-label quality now.
With more tour dates on the horizon and a product to push, Jynx Inc are set to make a name for themselves in the months to come. That experience will surely inform their next project, which is likely to transcend the learning curve documented here.
Jynx Inc appear on Thursday, July 28, at the Sound Affects showcase at ArtsRiot in Burlington. Machete Medley is available on iTunes.