Music Reviews
Raw Money Raps

Jeremiah Jae Raw Money Raps

(Brainfeeder) Buy it from Insound Rating - 7/10

If one were to put one’s trust into an emerging newcomer before even actually listening to a single note, than there’s a good chance that a record label like Brainfeeder will deliver to that demand most of the time. The majority of the Los Angeles imprint’s offerings are usually off-center types – artists that haven’t yet solidified their technical competence and are entrusted to tinker and experiment, constantly stretching their limitless creative potential. That’s not to say that any impetuous art student gets enlisted on a whim. Brainfeeder actually bears quite a small roster, with a high batting average in quality control that puts them among the most valuable independent record labels currently in business.

Up to this point, Brainfeeder has grown to feature a broad mixture of leftfield acts that go beyond the label’s first releases, which all featured a pre requisite for sampled electronic music. A large part can be attributed to beloved beatmaker Steve Ellison, otherwise known as Flying Lotus, whose tastemaking impulses naturally define the kind of music he’d most likely want to create. It’s one of those rare occasions where audiences fully base their listening habits on one man’s multifarious taste, the whole operation conceivably working as a reflection of how a musician thinks rather than the mixtaping talents of a well-informed musicphile.

It wouldn’t be too far-fetched to believe that Ellison sees something of himself in recent signee Jeremiah Jae, a Chicagoan emcee who likes to invoke the same kind of twisty, disjointed beats of his older progenitor. Except that Jae actually gives a voice to Ellison’s voiceless form of communication, a nasal, slothful inflection that’s slightly compressed to go with much of the shabby audio production. A heavy endorsement by Ellison himself doesn’t hurt, either, as he’s proclaimed Jae as “one of his favorite artists of this generation”, above all acknowledging him for pursuing his art in very much the same way he does.

Jae is an incredibly gifted talent, so much so that it’s a bit overwhelming to aurally digest all its textural nuances in just one sitting. Which results in a debut release that is no doubt bloated in content, jam-packed with some of the most irresistibly atypical beats you’ll hear from any hip-hop act all year. A good number of Raw Money Raps compulsorily barges from one track to the next, all wrapped up in a proggy state of musical bewilderment – a track like Guns Go Off may circle endlessly in a glitched-out, doom-laden march, only to bring down the tempo with a pluck bass heaving on an old school rap beat in Greetings. Only to follow it with the swanky flute lick and limber funk percussion of Rover, which for a whole minute serves as a gritty counterpart to a badass seventies film and, wait, it just ends.

The schizophrenic sequencing of the songs is both its best and worst asset, especially since every track feels so electrifying and fresh. Much of that vibrancy is slightly toned down in the second half of the album, which for a brief stretch positions a series of vocal samples set against some of its most morose, staticky loops a la Los Angeles; only the knob-twiddling, strung out One Herb lives up to its whirling soundscape. And speaking of being strung out, the last half does lay claim to some of the album’s most out there tracks, like the psychedelic leaning pair of Hercules vs. the Commune and Cable, the former slipping into a disorienting, plodding dread whereas the latter recalls what sounds like springy mushrooms bouncing all over a recurrently spastic string sample.

Through all this, Jae lets too much of his abstract thoughts run loose without any indication of ever activating his brain’s frontal lobe. A case could be made that an album overflowing with so much creativity can be forgiven, hence, rendering as irrelevant any reprove that it doesn’t flow as a unified experience. Taken as a whole, Raw Money Raps plays out like an exhaustive thesis work on how to expertly handle the art of hip-hop sampling. It’s really a treat that an artist like Jae is wise enough to spend most of his energy figuring out how to manipulate different sounds instead of writing himself up as the next cool, swaggering martyr. If only we knew what he really wants to tell us instead of trying so hard to be so damn clever.