[Love the righteously combative Ed's note near the end of this. That's Simon Price. Best reviews editor I ever worked for. Later on, roundabout "Wrath Of The Math" I interviewed Jeru. One of the nastiest racist pricks I ever spoke to.]
JERU THE DAMAJA
THE SUN RISES IN THE EAST
THE SUN RISES IN THE EAST
(Melody Maker, 6th June 1994)
As the Guru once said, take a taste of the bass, put your perspective in place.
I’d say the black “renegade” tradition that ran through Miles, freejazz , funk and dub had it’s last exponent with AR Kane. Laswell’s seam aside, in rock, black-avant is alive and well in the likes of God, Pram, Moonshake and 16/17 (none of whom are black), who reappropriate the lineage for their own far-out and fascinating ends. Hip hop and jungle are the terrains on which black (made) pop now maps out new noise. Listening to this and the Nas LP, I dry my eyes after Eric B & Rakim’s split and realise that hip-hop can still make most rock exploration sound tame and chickenshit by comparison. History needs to be rewritten.
Jeru, fresh from guesting on the last two Gang Starr bibles, emerges on his own here, produced by Gan Starr, mixed by DJ Premier – and that should be all you need to know. The music is truly matchless, going beyond Cypress or Wu-Tang’s minimalism into something approaching the futher reaches of dub or Schooly D’s murderous stomp. Repetition like water torture makes tracks like “Mental Stamina” and “MY Mind Spray” into bodiless neon funk, hypnotic and chilling as a blues party on Pluto, till the cumulative effect detonates the brain. “Ain’t The Devil Happy?” has a string-flourish break as lush as Massive, but the cine-drone undertow and passages of Aphex-like windtunnel noise turn it into a raw, intimidating warning against gangsta mindlessness. It ends with a Satanic laugh faded into a black hole that scares me silly. “Come Clean” is my track of the year, no contest. Its clammy voodoo feel (the actual backing track is some looped African drum echoed over a fat slamming beat, AND THAT’S ALL) and impenetrable mystic lyrics are as far out as music could ever get: it recalls to me nobody more than Pram (“Watertoy”, maybe); I’d love to hear Rosie sing over this. On “Statik”, a simple old skool beat dispenses with samples and allows the static scratch of the vinyl to become the loop; natural distortion being woven in with the beat until every part of the needle-fluff and vinyl-scar becomes lodged in the mind. And the album ends.
This album (13 tracks, a million ideas) is a reminder that pierced dicks and post-structural ponderings aren’t the only signifiers of unblinking experimentalism: B-Boys are still way ahead of most avant-popsters and noise-makers on the planet. Another step forward for hip-hop, a giant leap into the beyond for you lot (Excuse me, but who might “you lot” be? – Ed).
Walk into the darkness.