If you’re still waiting around for that Tribe Called Quest reunion, don’t hold your breath. As of August they’re M.I.A., and their solo projects have been shelved. But an indie imprint called 7 Heads, started by a group of true-school graduates of Thomas Jefferson’s Charlottesville alma mater, is cause for hope. Since the D.C.-based duo Asheru and Blue Black struck a chord in the East Coast underground with “Sun Up From Sun Down” in 1996, the label has provided a home for a new breed of B-boys—J-Live, the Lone Catalysts, Mr. Complex, El Da Sensei, Ritchy Pitch.
The jazzbo overtones that highlighted Asheru and Blue Black’s 2001 debut, Soon Come, resurface on 48 Months. The pair eschews the jingoism of “keeping it real” for lean, ingenuous exchanges of rousing lyricism that unselfishly address ubiquitous issues in the black community; “Dream Birth” and “Setting Sun” bear witness to ties that bind a family together with prosaic depictions of a child’s corporeal and spiritual birth by means of the father’s death.
Family values also suffuse Uncle Junior’s Friday Fish Fry, the second album from Asheru and Blue Black’s labelmate and frequent collaborator Djinji Brown. On this mix-CD prequel to a six-part installment of music to rock at your trawling parties, Brown offers tips from Uncle Junior himself on how to make things hotter than the kitchen on the “16th Floor in Apartment C in the 880 Building on Boynton Ave in the Soundview section of the Bronx” concurrently with a jambalaya of musical styles that’d turn an Iron Chef leafy green with envy. After the medium-high heat of Dennis Coffey’s theme to Black Belt Jones, Brown brings the pot to a boil with a succession of searing dance tracks: Mongo Santamaria’s Afro-Cuban “O Mi Shango,” NuSpirit Helsinki’s Afro-beatific “Makoomba,” the Afronaughts’ smooth progressive house “Transcend Me.” Simmering with Gregory Isaacs’s slum dub, garnished with Pevan Everett’s silky neo-soul, and taking its final touch of sax seasoning from Djinji’s father, Marion, Fish Fry’s feast is hearty enough to make even Uncle Junior himself lay back and loosen his belt, jam his hand down the front of his waistband, and nod off.