To most, ‘The Juju Exchange’ is an understandably odd name for a band (‘Juju’ is an African music, of the Yoruba people)- but their latest album ‘Exchange’ will sound very familiar to fans of Chance the Rapper.

The Juju Exchange is the latest brainchild of Nico Segal (a.k.a Donnie Trumpet), a major contributor to Chance’s work and main architect of the 2015 album ‘Surf’ (released under the name ‘Donnie Trumpet & the Social Experiment’). Segal’s back, this time with some old friends and instrumental collaborators: Pianist Julian Reid, Bassist Lane Beckstrom and Drummer Everett Reid.

This new effort has much in common with ‘Surf’, featuring the warm, enveloping harmonies associated with ‘Surf’: swirling pads and background vocals featuring Segal’s trumpet floating on top, drenched in reverb. ‘Exchange’ is mostly an instrumental album, but never lets itself become background music. Constantly changing instrumentation and the infectious, jazz-inspired beats keep the momentum forward for most of the album. The closest we get to a pop tune is with Jamila Woods singing on the song ‘We Good’, strongly invoking the sound now mainly associated with Chance. Free from the tethers of lyrical narrative, this album leans closer to jazz than ‘Surf’, at times daring to forgo the usually busy rhythms in favor of a minimal, more orthodox sound. We even see a quite traditional ballad in the final track ‘Patients’.

To many, jazz’s influence on Rap and Hip-Hop is invisible, but to those paying attention the effect is obvious. With albums like Robert Glasper’s seminal work: ‘Black Radio’ (2009) and Kendrick Lamar’s ‘To Pimp a Butterfly’ (2015), Hip-hop is pushing the boundaries of pop music while bringing jazz back into the spotlight. Without knowing it, a lot of students are being exposed to the residual effect of jazz’s influence on popular music, and I couldn’t be more excited about it.

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