Review Summary: Jeru is irresponsible sexually, but he won't shoot you. Here, his vocals, content and backing mix consistently, but not sharply.
For the most part, ‘The Sun Rises In The East’ pulls off its socio-conscious approach. It’s a difficult thing to achieve – A Tribe Called Quest did; Immortal Technique didn’t. The problem with educational hip-hop is that it can be intense in the wrong way. Jeru The Damaja doesn’t escape this hitch entirely, but ‘The Sun Rises In The East’ is a confident union of slammin’ beats and strict lyricism.
Jeru is a didact. To write educational rap that people actually want to hear is challenging, but he does it well. His vocals are a bit odd: they’re almost spoken but maintain rhythmic patterns; this fits the broader sound of the album perfectly. He isn’t making spoken-word here; he wants mature but rugged hip hop. His disjointed delivery doesn’t stray dangerously far from the head-nodding, but provokes thoughtfulness.
This is the tone of ‘The Sun Rises In The East’: Jeru exploits (and I mean that in the best possible way!) the benefits that hip hop gives: it is, among other things, an outlet for attitude, and Jeru has plenty. He’s not an over-the-top preacher; he’s a rapper with a message – something that doesn’t get old! Like A Tribe Called Quest, he’s a cool good-guy – we let ourselves like him.
While he does philosophize – “One day I got struck by knowledge and self” (Can’t Stop The Prophet) - he doesn’t abandon jaunty boastfulness. He’s a clever guy, but he’s still a guy. ‘Come Clean’ demonstrates this engaging juxtaposition – he’s moralizing, but he’s chilling.
“I’ve accumulated honeys all across the map
Cos I’d rather buss a nut
Than a cap in ya back”
Jeru is irresponsible sexually, but he won’t shoot you. This all conveys a sort of easy intelligence. What’s more, he and Premier have a real knack for swinging choruses; the same track proves that. His backing throughout is hypnotic and fits the character of the album perfectly. Black Moon’s ‘Enta Da Stage’ was an incredible East Coast effort, but always felt out of control. (Maybe that was the point.) ‘The Sun Rises In The East’ slots music and vocals together with precision and consistency. Premo offers beats that counter-balance the intensity of Jeru’s rhymes: the ‘Perverted Monks’ skits pause the poetry very, very well, giving us a chance to breathe.
Having said this, there are pitfalls. In general, he does tackle intellectual topics ably. However, ‘Can’t Stop The Prophet’ all feels a bit contrived; it’s an OTT parade of the spiritualist Jeru. To take the same vein of criticism – to attack individual, misfit tracks – ‘Ain’t The Devil Happy’ doesn’t fit the overall sound. But, there’s a bigger problem. While Jeru and Premier exhibit surprising compatibility, there aren’t enough highlights. The album is consistent but, and I hate to say this, a bit boring in places. I was really, really close to giving this a 4/5, but tracks like ‘D. Original’ don’t have enough edge. This is the crux: it’s a wicked album when it hits, but it doesn’t hit enough.