More Melting Pot Jams From Jovial L.A. Hip-Churners

Don’t Mess With the Dragon

If you’re a giddy optimist like me, you hope to one day hear Ozomatli’s cheerfully rebellious politi-pop wafting from every car radio in New York City. Don’t Mess With the Dragon is a celebration of their native L.A. in all its multicultural vibrancy and socioeconomic volatility. Singing in both English and Spanish, toying with Tower of Power horn fills during “City of Angels,” paying homage to the polymorphous funk of New Orleans during “Magnolia Soul,” and lobbing tight rhymes amid their jam-band virtuosity throughout, Ozo’s 10-man crew salute the aural mosaic of ethnic signifiers that makes our country great.

You could always dance to Ozo’s beats, but this time they supply more hip-churning swing than alt-rock stomp. How many contemporary combos could shift so effortlessly from the laconic “Stoned Soul Picnic” tempo of “After Party” to the mariachi- and cumbia-inflected rhythms of “La Gallina”? C’mon, DJs: Slip a little Ozo in between Fergie, Furtado, and Shakira.

Published in: Village Voice, April 7, 2007