"Music is the medicine to open the brain and learn," says J-Mil of Collective Efforts when asked about the group's new album, Medicine. "A lot of people who are hip-hop enthusiasts need a little bit of medicine, because a lot of what's been going on -- I remember, during the golden age of hip-hop, when you could turn on the radio and hear Wu-Tang Clan, the Roots, A Tribe Called Quest or Hiero. Now you turn on the radio and you're hard-pressed to find something of substance."
The sound of Medicine is contemplative and mellow. Its keyboard-driven blue beats, mostly produced by MCs J-Mil, Bambu and Ben Hameen, are spare and mellow. Multi-instrumentalist Hameen sometimes augments them with guitars and bass, and DJ Creashun scratches over them. The trio usually raps about introspective topics such as the way the music feels to them. Hameen and Ruthie Smith often sing the hooks, adding a soulful element to the music. "Head-on collision/I'm living the vision/I've written the wisdom/Now I'm just spittin' into the wind, son," raps Hameen on "Until My Life's Gone," the album's first single.
Medicine's most remarkable quality is that its tone is so serious. But J-Mil says its occasionally somber mood is unintentional. "There wasn't anything that we intentionally set out to do, no 'We're going to make this record be this way.' When we created it, it was just a [reflection] of what we were going through at the time," he says, without elaborating.
J-Mil, Bambu, Hameen and Creashun formed Collective Efforts in 2002 from the ashes of well-known hip-hop group Live on Arrival. Medicine is the quartet's third album, and will likely be the first to benefit from Arc the Finger Records' growing national profile (thanks in part to fellow label act Psyche Origami and its 2005 album The Standard). If Collective Efforts can't get props from Atlanta's hip-hop radio stations, maybe it will get the respect it deserves elsewhere.