If you follow the jazz scene at all in Shanghai chances are you’ve heard The Word, a group of singers, rappers and musicians fusing jazz and hip hop into a funky world music sound. They’ve performed several times at the JZ Club and tore it up last year at both the JZ Festival and BooshKaBaash. They’ve also released their debut EP, showcasing four songs.
If you haven’t seen them yet, here’s who they are: Gauthier Roubichou and Amine el Filali rap and do vocals, in English and French (and sometimes even a bit of Chinese) while Dana Shellmire brings a nice, earthy, hip hop voice to the mix. Jay Lasry plays the guitar, Mike Brownell is on bass, Steinar Nickelsen is on keys with Chris Trzcinski on drums to round out the group. The Word is also a pretty diverse crew, coming together from France, the Netherlands, Norway, America and Canada. Most of them are established jazz musicians and performers, active in other music projects here in Shanghai, so it’s interesting to hear the product when they all come together from different backgrounds.
Their sound is fully rooted in jazz, with a low-key but strong hip hop feel to it, and they definitely make the two genres work well together. The songs on the EP are unfussy but with some good hooks, most notably the catchy “Music Evolution” (which samples the chorus from the Buckshot LeFonque song) and also “Kan Kan Wo”, two songs where the main melody sticks with you instantly. The other two tracks, “Times” and “Loop L’ail” aren’t as strong, but still make for some good music. I think that with co-frontmen as well as a prominent female vocalist, The Word is still trying to figure out a cohesive sound that brings everyone together. This EP won’t wow you, but it is solid effort that has a lot of promise, so I’m certainly looking forward to hearing what else will be coming from them, be it more performances or a full length album at some point. I’ve seen The Word perform live, and they’re energetic and infectious with their enthusiasm, which goes a long ways.
You can get The Word EP at JZ Club.