Review Summary: Jeremiah Jae delivers the most unique hip-hop album of 2012, and likely well into 2013.
Experiments, no matter how well intentioned, don't always end well. In fact, sometimes when they don't work, they end in disaster. While the stakes in experimenting with music obviously don't carry the weight of life-or-death, they can end/derail a career very quickly. I'm sure Chris Cornell had nothing but good intentions when he was making Scream
, which was the definition of "disaster". The shadow of that album hung over him for years, even up to today. So it takes a brave soul to push limits as much as Jeremiah Jae does on his debut album, Raw Money Raps
. Moving from Chicago to LA and signing to Flying Lotus' Brainfeeder label (after the two became friends online a half decade ago) certainly helps his chances of success, since Brainfeeder is a typically outside-the-box label as is, but even by those standards this album is really out there. However, Jae is a legit talent, and for the most part the experiment work.
The album makes its statement right from the opening track, "Guns Go Off". With a chugging, twitchy beat produced by Jae (who did a majority of the production on the album), the vocals sound like they're drowning in the beat. This is a common thing on the album, and something that works both for and against it. Jae's lyrics are abstract--and very good--but the beat suffocates them on a lot of tracks. This invites two things, which bring us back to the "work for and against" part. One is frustration, and the other is curiosity. Frustration due to not being able to easily make out what he's saying a lot of time, and curiosity because it makes you want
to hear what he's saying, which leads to closer listening, and this is an album that requires it in many ways. It's an album that begs to be heard through a good pair of headphones.
All of this isn't to say that Jae doesn't show that he's adept at creating more common-sounding hip-hop at certain points. Tracks like "Greetings", "Money And Food" (which takes large swipes at radio hip-hop), as well as two album highlights--"Seasons" and "Cat Fight", play it slightly safer. The former still lowers the vocals, but the structure of the beat is more accessible. I've seen other reviews bag on "Cat Fight" (which was produced by Lotus himself) as being too much like Madlib, but I fail to see how that's a detriment. Using chipmunk-distorted soul samples, it's easily one of my favorite tracks on the album.
Obviously, his technique doesn't always work. But aside from one track, "Guerilla (Evolution Pt. 1)", they're all interesting enough to keep your attention for multiple listens. Essentially, they're the kind of tracks that could
be skip-able depending on the kind of mood you're in when you hear them. Either way, it's an album that deserves to be heard, especially by fans of weird hip-hop. And while it definitely isn't going to be an album for everyone, to those it is for it's quite a revelation, and one that gives a lot of excitement as to where Jae can go from here.