Bringing the background to the forefront
Referring to a song as “background music” is often taken as an insult, implying that it’s boring, lackluster, unimaginative, not interesting, … you get the point. Background music, however, when executed with skill and creativity, can be seriously compelling stuff. DJ Cam Quartet is one of the unquestioned masters of so-called background music – that is to say, they create calm, cyclical, primarily instrumental music that sets the mood without taking over every corner of your brain. Their 2013 track “Rebirth of Cool” (a re-working of the instrumental for Common’s 1994 hit “Resurrection”) is, as much of their work is, a swirling blend of hip-hop and jazz that oozes feelings of carefree, content relaxation and subtle confidence.
Gentle piano chords layered over 90s-style hip-hop percussion form the foundation for the track, which clearly showcases DJ Cam’s influences: the likes of KRS-One, J Dilla, A Tribe Called Quest, and other 90s hip-hop heavyweights. Soft guitar riffs and stand-up bass rhythms hang back in the wings while muted jazz trumpet takes center stage provides cheerful dynamicity to the otherwise relatively placid track. The instrumentation gets gradually more freeform and jazz-focused as the song progresses, only to be brought back towards the hip-hop side of the spectrum with the brief injection of classic 90s vinyl scratching and tough-guy vocals. “Rebirth of Cool” is a monumental effort in the realm of easy-listening music, bringing intrigue and swagger to the table in an environment has the tendency to be drab and uninspiring.