"This album was created to SAVE hip-hop and the minds of the people who listen to it.
During the early 1990s, it seemed like there was an endless stream of excellent hip hop coming out. Wu-Tang Clan, Nas, A Tribe Called Quest, Black Moon, Gang Starr, Mobb Deep and many others all dropped some of the best albums of that time (or even their career). The one that sticks with me most, though, is Jeru's 1994 debut The Sun Rises in the East
. I don't know what it is about it that I like so much; perhaps it's DJ Premier's wonderfully dark samples and musk-filled beats. Maybe it's the Damaja's lyricism and seemingly effortless flow. Although Jeru isn't nearly as skilled as some of his contemporaries, he makes up for it with an album's worth of solid material, something that Nas and Black Moon couldn't seem to accomplish with their respective albums.
Fastforward two years and we have Kendrick Jeru Davis, otherwise known as Jeru the Damaja, releasing his sophomore effort to the world, Wrath of the Math
. Here we find the self-described Prophet of Hip Hop picking up from where he left off, acquiring the help of DJ Premier once again. However, things have obviously begun to change in Jeru's precious world; the mafioso style has gained popularity, resulting in legions of flashy, whack emcees such as Puff Daddy who value entrepernurual endeavors over artistic credibility. He even figuratively describes at length in "One Day" how Bad Boy Records and Foxy Brown 'kidnap' hip hop, stating "It's all about dough".
Throughout Wrath of the Math
, Jeru is quick to remind us of his 'conscious' approach to music, often through frustratingly boring pseudo-narratives that are disguised as metaphorical (see last paragraph). "Not Tha Average" finds us wrapped in stories of sexual encounters, as the protagonist finds himself in unfavorable situations with several women. Perhaps this is an attempt to identify easily manipulated, stereotypical promiscous men. Whether it is or not, Jeru falls flat with uninteresting delivery and the repetition of the phrase "I'm not ya average nigga". Elsewhere, you can find sequels to songs from The Sun Rises in the East
, including "Revenge of the Prophet (Part 5)", "Me and the Papes" and "Physical Stamina", which features excellent mic work from both Afu-Ra and the Damaja.
What stands out the most here though is the production work, courtesy of the infamous DJ Premier. Whereas The Sun Rises in the East
sounded like a much darker and mysterious Illmatic
, Premier seems to to have improved his game and originality, assembling aspects of several different genres and artists such as Miles Davis, James Brown, Esther Phillips, Ahmad Jamal, Pink Floyd, and Curtis Mayfield. These samples, coupled with hypnotic beats and scratching, create a peculiar atmosphere that is hard to pinpoint to one specific feeling. Because of this ambiguity, Wrath of the Math
covers a wide variety of tones and moods.
Wrath of the Math
is a solid but flawed album worthy of respect. Despite this, Jeru the Damaja wanted to be the savior
of hip hop, but sadly wasn't capable of accomplishing a mission of such caliber. Did Jesus Christ record a few dope tracks and get nailed to a cross?