With visionary producer/DJ Cut Chemist off doing the solo thing, Jurassic 5 is officially down to, strangely enough, five members. But more than the lineup has been stripped down on Feedback, a collection of tight, three-minute pop songs that breeze by without wearing out their welcome, or at worst, making much of an impression. And though Jurassic 5's signature throwback sound rules much of the album, the rapid-fire, machine-gun rhyming of "Baby Please" and the slinky, Scott Storch-produced "Brown Girl (Suga Plum)" sound uncharacteristically contemporary, even trendy. Then there's the Sunday-afternoon hacky-sack-at-the-student-union vibe of the Dave Matthews Band-assisted "Work It Out," which seems destined to win J5 new, patchouli-scented fans while alienating plenty of old ones.
A lot of Jurassic 5's stylistic hallmarks—old-school vocal harmonizing, intricate lyrical tag-teaming, and mile-wide grooves—are curiously absent for long stretches of Feedback, which reconciles J5's famous reverence for hip-hop's past with an eye toward its future. "Radio" ingratiatingly tugs in both directions at once with its monster retro-futuristic electro-funk beat (courtesy of Salaam "The Chameleon" Remi), while the standout track "End Up Like This" points toward Kanye West's hyper-soul sound with a haunting, ghostly sampled chorus.
J5's strangely subdued Feedback is the rare rap album that might be too short for its own good. With a running time just over 50 minutes, it's devoid of fat or filler, but also minus the overreaching but noble ambition of J5's previous album. Jurassic 5 first burst exuberantly onto the scene as the antidote to soulless, trend-chasing modern-day hip-hop, but with Feedback, these old-school leaders make peace with contemporary rap without losing their retro charm.