Embrace The Chaos

Almo Sounds/Interscope

I looked forward to this record with a mix of anticipation and trepidation. See, Ozomatli’s self-titled debut album is easily one of my favorite albums of the last decade, and I’ve spent the last couple of years both waiting for this follow-up and looking (mostly in vain) for anything that even came close to matching their unique and masterful mix of Latin, hip hop, funk, rock, jazz, and other, diverse musical forms. Hearing that two of the key contributors to the debut, DJ Cut Chemist and rapper Chali 2na, had left the band for full-time commitments to the equally-sublime Jurassic 5 left me feeling even more nervous, so it was with mixed feelings that I popped in Embrace The Chaos when it finally arrived.

Luckily, my fears were mostly unfounded. While there is a vague feeling that something is missing here (likely 2na’s distinctively deep-voiced rhymes) Embrace stands on nearly equal musical footing with its illustrious predecessor. Ozomatli still excel at throwing everything including the kitchen sink into the mix, and still manage to maintain a highly danceable and solid, cohesive whole. If nothing else, Embrace The Chaos even adds more elements to the mix — check out the breakbeat bridge on “Dos Cosas Ciertas,” for just one example.

Perhaps to make up for 2na’s absence, an illustrious array of guest rappers make the scene, ranging from De La Soul (the party anthem “1234,” which could almost be a lost Fishbone or Let’s Go Bowling track) to Common (the socially conscious, downbeat title track), to Black Eyed Peas’ Will.I.Am (with Medusa and Kanetic Source on the Lyricist Lounge-worthy “Vocal Artillery”). Kanetic Source appears on several tracks, in fact, and seems to be 2na’s successor, in spirit if not in deed. DJ Cut Chemist, on the other hand, has not been replaced, but the band uses a series of DJs when the songs call for it — including Chemist himself on “Vocal Artillery” and “Lo Que Dice.”

That’s not to imply that the boys don’t do just as fine on their own, though — check out the highly danceable “Guerrillero,” the free jazz “Pensativo (Interlude),” or the more traditional Latin jazz of “Timido.” And as ever, Ozomatli are not afraid to speak their mind — one need only hear the chilling samples from the police shutdown of their appearance at last year’s Democratic National Convention that grace the title track to see that.

In short, Ozomatli have lost nary a step. They may Embrace The Chaos, but they also know how to use it to its greatest effect. Pick this up — you won’t be sorry.

Interscope Records, 2220 Colorado Ave., Santa Monica, CA 90404; http://www.ozomatli.com

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