In the vein of east coast classics such as Liquid Swords
, The Sun Rises In The East
, Jeru The Damaja's debut album, depicts the constant struggles and difficult street life of growing up in the city that never sleeps. Jeru has a knack for explaining the rugged through thought-provoking lyricism over legendary producer DJ Premier's array of old school beats. Growing up in NYC has a huge impact on a young man, big enough to inflict inspiration and pain and Jeru tells his story throughout, conjuring up images of violence, sex, and theory, sometimes in the same track. While his delivery and rhymes don't quite have the knockout punch after punch that Nas or GZA unleash, Jeru holds his own enough to be considered with them as a revival of sorts for east coast rap in the 1990's.
The real highlight of the album is DJ Premier's work with the beats. His style is very old school and simple, but it does the trick in creating an atmosphere akin to the streets of Brooklyn; tough, sexy, and thumping, The Sun Rises In The East
can easily be played all the way through in your stereo and quite possibly make you look more badass as you cruise down 5th Ave. This is mostly due to how light and airy Premier's beats are; the wonderful saxophone lead in "Da Bitches" (which is, you guessed it, about bitches) is soothing and easy listening, as is the underwater sounding melody of "Come Clean". The album is very transparent, as the bass is present, but doesn't overload the record with pulse; it does its job and lets Premier's sparse melodies take up most of the sound of the album. "Statik" is another example of how this works well, as there is an appropriate amount of static effects under Jeru's poisonous raps, but that's really it aside from the thin bass line that's as groovy as they come.
Unfortunately, Jeru's rhymes aren't as good as the other albums I mentioned before. He seamlessly transfers from rapping about the crime-ridden streets of NY to philosophical tidbits about how ignorance is running amok through the city ("You Can't Stop The Prophet"), yet he doesn't have the vicious bite and violent edge that makes the listener jolt back in astonishment of just how fluid and vivid the raps are. It's almost like Liquid Swords
minus the rhymes that make you stop and go "wow"; his vision is clear and his raps are consistent, but there's no flashes of brilliance or lines that make you go home immediately and put them on your AIM away message (that's just me). He's good enough though, and he paints a picture that you would normally expect NYC to look like; bleak, grueling, and rough.
Regardless, Jeru The Damaja's debut is a great collection of old school rap songs to have around when you're in the need for some east coast rap that's accurate and fun. DJ Premier brings his best work to the table here, providing beat after beat of solid, underground music that goes well with Jeru's tales of the Big Apple. Don't expect an album of Liquid Swords
quality, however as Jeru just doesn't have the wits and knockout punches that GZA and Nas have. But Jeru holds his own, and this was a great start to the revolution of east coast hip-hop in the 90's.