Jeru the Damaja Brings Hip Hop Back to its Roots

Album Info

Album: Still Rising [Explicit]

Jeru Picture

MYnstrel Genre: Hip Hop & Rap
Album Release Date: 10.16.2007
Band Members:
Jeru the Damaja – Vocals, Producer, Executive Producer
Louis “Sabor” Tineo – Executive Producer
Clement “Showkase” Wong – Producer
MySpace Homepage:
Noteworthy Video:

Spotlight Summary

MYnstrel is proud to support one of the Brooklyn hip hop scene’s shining stars, Jeru the Damaja! For those of you missing the good old days of honest and hard knocking hip hop, look no further. Still Rising lives up to its name as it continues to gain momentum. From the opening song, Jeru devastates the microphone with his honesty and emotional experiences in life. His lyrical themes preach positivity through the harsh realities that life often provides. Jeru states his albums present: “Raw, unadulterated hip-hop … there are a lot of gimmicks in music, and I wanted to take some of the gimmicks out and just do the hip-hop that I was brought up with. So it’s really just hip-hop; music without the executives, and without the market motion.” One of the most poignant sets of lyrics on the album, from the song “Hold Tight”, captures listeners’ attention with these powerful words:

“It’s the demons within nowadays that I fight. I took a few steps back, will I ever reach the heights? It’d a, be nice to have kids and a wife. What I tend to do was wrong even though I know what’s right. Unholy thoughts cause me stress and strife. Although I tired I’m determined to fight the good fight.”

Throughout the album, Jeru the Damaja demonstrates what only a true hip hop veteran can: intense lyrics with intricate rhythms that keep listeners spellbound and yearning for more. Still Rising maintains a slow, deliberate style that causes listeners to engage in Jeru’s jams and experience all of his myriad emotions so brilliantly on display.

If you are one of the many fans who have witnessed the unbridled power from a live Jeru performance, you realize that he remains faithful to the authentic hip hop he grew up with. His confidence comes from persevering through life, a pure love of music, and his willingness to share his experiences with fans.

Still Rising definitely deserves attention from all fans of Hip Hop. Jeru proves that he doesn’t need tricks, or expensive DJs, or famous producers to create a truly inventive and pervasive work of art. Still Rising provides a unique, heartfelt look at life through the eyes of a true visionary.

Check this album out; hip hop fans won’t want to miss it!

Album Breakdown

In the opening track, Full Metal Intro, Jeru the Damaja sets the tone for the entire album, and deftly pays homage to the Hip Hop genre through his quote “Humankind cannot gain anything without first giving something in return”. Jeru utilizes DJs who play authentic beats through laying down futuristic bass lines, which emphasize his vocal ability and add substance to the music. Still Rising instills a sense of awe in listeners through the pure rhythmic onslaught of Jeru’s lyrical prowess, and the powerful messages will stay with listeners for a long time afterward. One of Jeru the Damaja’s honest lyrical passages states:

“I’m not saying that I’m ever start doin’ what anybody else is doin’, but I will grow. And I ain’t got too much else to say, just long live Hip Hop. Peace.”

Still Rising provides listeners with an offering of diverse songs bursting with creativity. Jeru offers different feels throughout the album, and every song has a powerful effect on the album’s entirety. His combination of direct and abstract themes of injustice keeps the album interesting from beginning to end. Most of the rhythms feature a center placed bass drum, snare drum, and hi-hat with a straight forward time signature. This creates a solid foundation to support the more prominent vocal tracks and place emphasis on the lyrics and concept of the album.

Still Rising provides some interesting ambient vocal harmonies, but the obvious musicianship skill comes in the form of the intricate rhymes laid down by Jeru in the songs. The DJ creates extremely interesting environments for Jeru to utilize, and the expert use of ambient sounds supports the theme of each song and adds depth to the tracks. This remains important in hip hop music, in that the focus of the lyrics needs to be adequately surrounded by proper ambient sounds to perfect the mood of the song. Still Rising preserves this important aspect of Hip Hop.

Still Rising creates a pretty standard hip hop mix, with heavy emphasis on the bass drum, vocal tracks, and often using grittiness to accentuate the theme. In addition, Jeru’s lyrical ability demonstrates his mastery of the English language and establishes his venerability as a writer. In fact, Jeru also writes scripts for movies. He discusses his writing when he states:

”It’s about inner city life, but in a positive way. Not glorifying the stereotypes, but showing them because there’s truth in any stereotype. It’s my expression. I try to be as expressive as possible and try to do the best I can.”

This album proves his success in that arena.

Still Rising offers a unique look at the world through the eyes of a veteran hip hop pioneer. Through honest and hard hitting lyrics and intricate supporting instrumentation, this album propels listeners to a whole new level of hip hop credibility. Still Rising definitely creates a sense of wonder as listeners ponder the deep impact Jeru’s lyrics have on their souls.

Setting the Record Straight

Currently MYnstrel is unaware of any unfair press or slanderous reviews of this album.

Personal Connections to this Album

Spotlight Editor, Nathan Radcliffe’s Personal Connections

I got turned on to Jeru the Damaja by my best friend who is somewhat of a connoisseur of rap music. His exact recommendation was, “You might like this guy Jeru the Damaja, he’s a dope rapper that preaches positivity.” I respect my friend’s opinion when it comes to rap music so I immediately went online and sampled some of the tracks off his latest album, Still Rising. My friend couldn’t have been more on point! The second track, The Crack, really grabbed my attention, the crisp lyrics and beat reminded me of the old school, “non-commercial,” east coast rap I’ve always enjoyed but have struggled to find recently in the mainstream hip-hop market.

The next time I saw my buddy, I congratulated him on his keen ear and told him how Jeru reminded me of Gang Starr. The funny thing is that I had no idea that DJ Premier from Gang Starr had produced some of Jeru’s previous albums. Once I discovered these two extraordinary artists had ties, my excitement to explore more of Jeru’s earlier work doubled. Jeru the Damja is now a mainstay on my Mp3 player.

Spotlight Editor, Tony Abbruscato’s Personal Connections

One of the earliest lessons I learned as a musician was to know my limits and not overplay for the part. This lesson started an educational process in which I figured out the types of music I was more talented in playing. I also gained an appreciation for musicians in various genres for the different levels of skill required to create an artistic expression. Jeru the Damaja, and other true hip hop artists, have definitely earned my respect for their amazing control of vocal rhythms. I am constantly blown away with their vocal onslaughts and their expert use of the English language!

When I was deployed in Iraq, I had a soldier who was really into Rap and Hip Hop. We used to listen to his albums when we were on patrols and when we were training in between missions. We often had long conversations concerning why he liked particular artists more than others, and I realized how much of the culture of hip hop was involved in his decision making process. This intrigued me, so I started listening and figuring out that hip hop was almost as much a state of mind as a musical genre. What fascinated me about this was that everyone could find something different that they liked in a particular song or artist, which created a totally unique experience for every listener. This realization caused my level of respect for hip hop artists to rise exponentially!

Jeru the Damaja definitely has no qualms about speaking what is on his mind, and that adds a ton of depth and authenticity to his lyrics. His unabashed confidence to write about his life experiences and how they have shaped his perception remains one of his best qualities as an artist. And no one can doubt his authenticity. His Brooklyn roots and early experience with Gangstarr solidified his presence in the hip hop community. Jeru’s vocal talents and his honesty regarding the state of hip hop music solidify him as a force to be reckoned with. Here’s to a talented artist willing to fight for his beliefs!

Featured Tracks

Track 3: Ghetto

This song blasts listener’s speakers from the opening downbeat which segues perfectly into Jeru’s powerful vocals. This song offers one of the most incredible lyrical messages on the entire album. When Jeru states “I suggest you lay low, if you know what I know. That’s how you survive. Welcome to the Ghetto”, his summation of the current situation as he sees it resounds with listeners for a long time afterward.

Jeru the Damaja maintains some of the most amazing lyrical talent we have heard, and this song exemplifies his vocal prowess. The beats provide some really interesting ambient sounds to support the consternation Jeru discusses regarding the state of the Ghetto. The bass drum and snare remain prominent in center placement in the mix and drive the song throughout. During the chorus, Jeru utilizes a cool affect on his voice to emphasize his point that nobody is smiling in the Ghetto.

The background instrumentation supports Jeru’s vocals well by allowing his vocal tracks to remain the focal point in the song. This adds the proper amount of depth to the song and enables listeners to truly focus on his intense message throughout the song.

Overall, this track represents one of the most honest looks at life in rough situations, and engages listeners every second.

Track 11: NY

This track opens with one of the most exciting introductions on the entire album, with a driving background beat and supporting vocals that lead into the first verse. Jeru’s message once again remains clear in that New York represents one of the most diverse and intriguing cities in the world. When Jeru states, “But I ain’t gotta tell ya that I think y’all know, here’s my stop, I’m off to the studio”, he reminds listeners that everyone can choose their path in life, and his remains the pursuit of musical expression.

The first verse then starts with Jeru the Damaja’s trademark vocal onslaught. Listeners will be excited with his incredible grasp of rhythm and honesty. Listeners will feel like they are riding on the train right along with him waiting for his stop to go to the studio and record his next hit album. The mix utilizes a prominent and driving snare, bass, and hi-hat beat to support throughout.

This song presents one of the jovial aspects of Jeru’s music; his observations of the various aspects of New York City not only cause listeners to wonder about the diversity found in the United States, but also intrigue listeners to experience this for themselves.

Track 13: Airplay

This song begins with some ethereal female vocal tracks that lead into a portion of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I have a Dream” speech. Jeru then assaults the microphone and raps about his perception of the current state of the world. Towards the end of the verse, before the start of the chorus, Jeru raps one of the most incredible sets of lyrics on the entire album, “What would the future hold if we neglect the youth; I bet this won’t get no airplay cause I’m speakin’ the truth.”

The supporting instrumentation tracks from the DJ add amazing depth to this song, especially because the female vocals sound exasperated with the state of the world. This effect is created through looping the female vocal tracks and causing them to cut off sharply. The result is a series of vocal tracks that add to the theme of frustration at the current state of affairs. The vocals also provide some great harmonies to support the verses, and this fills the mix out well.

At the end of the song Jeru raps his last lyrics, and the song fades out with the ambient female vocals. The DJ utilizes some interesting effects on the vocals to fade out the song. Overall, this song remains one of the most honest displays of Jeru the Damaja’s view of the world, and this causes listeners to open their thoughts to the various ideas he shares. Listeners develop empathy for his point of view, and this engages listeners and leaves them wanting more.

Additional Tracks:

We hit the streets and asked the Baltimore and Washington DC fan base for other buzz worthy tracks. These include: “The Crack”, with an awesome old school back beat and some truly acrobatic vocal assaults, “Murdera”, with a great beat and intensely crafted lyrics, and “Quantum Leap”, with some of the most authentic hip hop beats and honest lyrics on the entire album.

Conclusion

In a musical landscape where many genres seem to be combining into one musical expression, Jeru the Damaja proves that the authentic roots of Hip Hop remain the most important foci of his work. He entertains listeners and offers unabashed honesty in his lyrics, which are delivered with such precise rhythms even the most experienced listeners out there will want more. Still Rising conveys an emotional ride through the challenges of everyday life that only experience and perseverance can transcend. Just read Jeru the Damaja’s own words, which exemplify his outlook: “Life as I live it is like a big university, as far as all the knowledge in the world is really at my fingertips, so I constantly use my resources to touch that knowledge.”

Jeru the Damaja accepts his position in the Hip Hop industry, and the title of this album, Still Rising, demonstrates his ability to take one step at a time and continue to damage the microphone with his lyrical prowess. He remains satisfied with the road life has provided for him, and Jeru will continue along this path no matter where it leads. This pure love for all that represents authentic Hip Hop excites listeners and garners new fans every day. Our most humble admiration for Jeru the Damaja’s pursuit of his craft and here’s to the realization of artisan creativity in a conglomerate music industry!

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