One of the best things about the jazz and hip hop genres is the capacity each has for embracing the concept of collaboration. The nature of hip hop in particular – with its emphasis on sampling and production – makes it ripe for a cross pollination of musical ideas, and many of the genre’s seminal moments have been born from this pick and mix approach.
And so it is with ‘This Place Here’, the debut release from Auckland four-piece Yoko-Zuna. It’s an album which features lyrical/vocal star turns from local luminaries such as David Dallas, Spycc, Team Dynamite, Bailey Wiley, Melodownz from Third3ye and Goodshirt‘s Rodney Fisher. Throw in a variety of instrumentation from the group’s core members – keys/synth, sax, flute – plus terrific recording and mastering from Cam Duncan, and the result is a wonderfully eclectic mix across the album’s nine tracks. So much so, it feels plain wrong to file this hybrid concoction exclusively under the hip hop banner. The album’s roots are deeply embedded in the genre, there’s no question about that, but above ground, given the air and room to breathe, these soul and jazz-infused tunes take on a life of their own; boundaries are breached, horizons are expanded and ultimately ‘This Place Here’ is guaranteed a much wider reach than might have been expected. One or two tracks appeal as glorious half-formed ideas that could perhaps be developed further, but there are no duds. The RnB-styled One’s Cycle, topped with a delicious soul-drenched Bailey Wiley vocal, is a sumptuous stand out.