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Digging Deep: Justice (MJAZZ)

Digging Deep: Justice (MJAZZ)
Adam Tiran

Modern Urban Jazz is one of those record labels that makes you proud to have an interest in underground music. Set up by one of the longest-standing and most prolific producers in D&B, Tony Justice, a staggering 18 years ago, MUJ has put out release after release of consistently interesting and reliably exploratory music from some of the scene’s lesser known luminaries.

Uncompromisingly leaning toward the experimental and – as the name would suggest – jazzier side of breakbeat engineering, the imprint has seen notable and often groundbreaking releases from Chris Inperspective, DiamonD EyE (whose recent forays into techno territory as Universal Appearance you can track here), Justice himself and his long-time collaborator Metro.

Never failing to stay relevant, the label’s recent rebrand as MJAZZ has seen them embrace new school innovators in the shape of Jason oS, Deep Blue and Dominic Ridgway amongst others; a welcome update to their pioneering mindset. Now, as the label reaches its 18th birthday, the imprint is releasing WORKS, a stunning collection of some of those early tracks from the mid ’90s that, to quote, have “never seen the digital light of day”.

Wishing to get an insight into the mind of this avant-garde label’s head honcho, and after having heard his fantastically eclectic podcast series with Metro, we asked Justice to lay down eight of his favourite, most obscure 45s as the first in our new Digging Deep feature, to give some wider context to this latest anthology. There are some absolute gems here so kick back and enjoy them all in this lovingly curated playlist!

Talkin’ all that jazz – Stetsasonic

For me this is one of the finest meetings of hip hop and jazz, well one of the holy trinity along with Gang Starr’s ‘Jazz Thing’ and Jazzy Jeff & Fresh Prince’s ‘Touch of Jazz’. It’s the Lonnie Liston Smith sampled bassline, the delivery of the rap and the rolling break. It was listening to these tracks that introduced me to jazz through it’s sample matter, as so often was the case with hip hop.
It came out on the ‘In Full Gear’ LP and was my favourite track, so I was delighted when I picked up the 7.

Space Funk – Manzel

This one was used on ‘No competition’ by Eric B and Rakim. Again I was a real big fan of these two, Rakim in my humble opinion being one of the best to grace the mic ever. I found this in a junk shop in my hometown of Luton and wasn’t really too sure what it was when I pulled it out. It was 1988 and or 89, and I just saw the name ‘Space Funk’ and took a 50 pence gamble, which is what the guy charged me. When I got it home and played it I was blown away, the flip ‘Jump Street’ is a tune as well. They are two slices of excellent break backed funk. Quite recently I was on the HBS Music Archaeology show and learnt that this is now a hard 45 to come by and can command a hefty price tag. It’s one of them digging moments that can be few and far between.

Asafo Beesuon – C.K. Mann

I didn’t really know a lot about this guy, I had caught a snippet of this tune on a DJ Spinna mix a while back. Then I saw that Mr Bongo had re-released a limited run on 7 inch and it happened to be the said 45. A great bit of African funk and vibes, tough break and almost chant like vocals. There seems to be a rise of African funk at the moment and with quality like this, long may it continue.

Wordy Rappinghood – Tom Tom Club

Tom Tom club came out of the whole New Wave scene, it was tunes like this that I started to get into around the time Electro was coming out and a lot of the Boogie tunes that were turning up on the Streetsounds LP’s. I really like the vibe of the tune and the influences and sounds that it draws from. ‘Genius of love’ is another one of theirs that just evoke and sum up an era for me when lots of musical movements were in their infancy and the vibe was DIY and being invented as it went along.

Hunter (Dubmonger Sonar Dub Mix) – Diamond Eye

When you have a label and you have a love for 45’s it’s great when you get a chance to release one yourself. We released this on Mjazz as part of a remix project from Diamond Eye’s LP. It is by Dubmonger and it is a modern authentic electronic dub take on a D & B track. We released it in a limited amount with a big centre hole in true dub style. It was hand wrapped, stencilled and stickered just to add to the whole personal touch.

Do the James – Superlover Cee and Casanova Rud

This 45 has been issued only very recently via Kenny Dope’s Mobile Mondays label. When I saw it I had to grab one, I used to rock their LP ‘Girls I got ’em locked’ back in the day and they were produced by the legendary Paul C, who gets the ‘Impeach the president’ break sounding large and was responsible for producing another of my all-time favourite hip hop group Ultramagnetic MC’s. It’s a wicked 7 and has an instrumental cut of it on the flip.

The Motorcade Sped On – Steinski and The Mass Media

I got this free cover mounted on the NME music paper in about 1987. There are 3 different tracks on it, but the one I was interested in was this one. It is by legendary and foremost cut and paste producer Steinski, and is based around cut up dialogue and news reports on the shooting of JFK. It sounds kind of macabre I guess, it’s not though. I first heard it on Mike Allen’s radio show on Capital radio, and the juxtaposition between the dialogue, sirens and fairground noises works really well with the beats and other chopped up bits.

Something to be done – Masterplan Inc

This was reissued by Soul Spectrum in the summer and really evokes that feeling of long sunny days when I hear it, especially now we are plunged into the darkness and winter. It is an upbeat soul boogie number with some slap bass and great vocal action.

WORKS is out now on Surus on MJAZZ and has already garnered support from LTJ Bukem, Mix Master Morris and Roger Sanchez.