Juggaknots: Schooling the Masses

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Before sitting down to record their new album Use Your Confusion (Amalgam Digital), Bronx hip-hop trio Juggaknots hadn't recorded a sizeable amount of material together in five or six years. For a group of siblings all living in the same area, this lengthy absence doesn't initially add up–that is, until you find out what they've been doing with their time. While on hiatus from hip-hop, brothers Breeze Brewin and Buddy Slim and sister Queen Herawin were busy dropping science, almost literally, in the classroom.

"Teaching is a tough gig and it ain't really the kind of thing you can slack on 'cause you're dealing with people's lives–you wanna give it your all," says Breeze of the trio's shared profession, which has also brought them closer together. "We can sit down and bond and relate to each other [about teaching]," says Herawin.

While it's been a decade since the Juggaknots' debut, Clear Blue Skies, and three years since its revamped re-release, this trio hasn't been entirely absent from hip-hop. Collaborations with Prince Paul, Mr. Len, and The Weathermen have kept Breeze and his siblings' names bubbling in the underground. "We tried to put out a single here and there just to let cats know that there was still a pulse," Breeze explains. "Although [our pulse] was near flat-lining, it never got completely horizontal."

Use Your Confusion shows that Juggaknots are indeed alive and kicking, with the threesome presenting challenging subject matter over a multifaceted supply of gritty, mid-tempo beats. Though rhymes about the importance of fathers in the inner city and growing older may sound dry or didactic, the crew breathes life and positivity into the topics, while sharing their own experiences. On "Daddy's Little Girl," Queen Herawin reveals how having her father consistently present as a child was vital to her upbringing; on "30 Something," Breeze reflects with guest MC Sadat X on how inching closer towards middle age isn't half bad.

Juggaknots aren't all about introspection, though. Tracks like "Use Your Confusion" touch on broader human themes–in particular, the uncertainty that the public is feeling these days and what can be done to remedy social and political situations. Breeze explains the song–and the overall album–thusly: "It's really about using that frustration and just basically pokin' fun at it and using it to your benefit."