Ann Arbor’s music scene is known more for its folk music
and garage rock bands than for its hip hop community. Nonetheless,
Ann Arbor hip hop group Athletic Mic League have carved themselves
a niche in A2’s diverse music scene.

“Who said good music will never make it again, but I beg
to differ / This is modern day soul music.” This line from
“Heavy Medal” captures the essence of AML’s
latest album, Jungle Gym Jungle. Exemplified best by the songs
“Heartless/This Ain’t Livin’” and “R
U???,” their neo-soul flavor sounds like the present-day
equivalent of Native Tongue.

AML’s creativity is expressed most in the motif and
wordplay of sports and athletics. Over the blazing rock guitar
sample of “Heavy Medal,” one member alluding to the
1936 Olympics in Nazi Germany rhymes that he has “seen
revolution since 1936 / When Jesse Owens was leading the battle
against Hitler.” They give praise to the black and other
minority athletes who have had to make a stand in the face of
racism.

Despite its strengths, there is nothing that really stands out
on Jungle Gym Jungle. Some tracks, including “The Rip”
and “Let’s Go,” just call for a push on the fast
forward button. One of the singles out now, “Feel It,”
is one of the weaker songs on the album. The delivery at some parts
sounds a little rushed and is not on point with the triple-time
beat.

Any review of this album cannot go without mentioning the Lab
Tech production crew. This four-man team produces beats with
invigorating originality and soul. The song “Watch Me”
mostly consists of drums and a live bass guitar, and yet, it is
still a creative head nodder. A more radio-friendly track,
“Take ’Em High,” with its nice groove and the
live instrumentation of local Ann Arbor act, Funktelligence, would
serve as a better single. The use of real instruments on the album
hints at the Lab Techs’ sense of music and top quality
production.

Jungle Gym Jungle is fresh in part because it is not bound by
the sound of their previous material. With more variation in
creativity and style as well as a continued collaboration with the
Lab Techs, AML could eventually drop some classic shit.

Rating:  3.5 out of 5 stars.

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