This album was released on January 24th this year. Jay Cinema is an underground artist and follower of this blog who I’ve been familiar with for maybe a year or two. I’ve only ever heard a couple tracks here and there, but I’ve enjoyed what I’ve heard. He’s also the one who put me onto Lord Jah-Monte Ogbon, so I thank him for that. I’m pretty sure he’s also friends with Pink Siifu, so that’s cool too. Anyway, from what I’ve heard he’s part of the current underground lofi abstract Hip Hop scene, so I think I’ll dig this. I’ve never heard of the producer WilfMerson before, so I’m pretty much going into this blind, but I trust that I’ll enjoy it nonetheless.
As always, I’ll write about the songs I liked first before getting into the tracks I won’t be returning to. The album begins with Desolate, and right away I was super impressed by Wilf’s production. It sounds really heavy and kinda rough, almost like an August Fanon beat. Jay Cinema himself is clearly very influenced by the music of guys like MIKE, Earl, Medhane, King Carter, etc. The opening line in which he says “I got my heart on my sleeve” pretty much tells you what you’re in for with this project lyrically. I definitely relate to a lot of it.
Losing focus, I stare out the window
The rain pouring at a different tempo
Can it slow down? It’s a flood now
I see my blood on the ground
What if I bleed out? I been in a drought
Can’t cope with doubt, I been walking on the same route
Got my foot on the curb, lately I been disturbed
My mother’s words help me when I’m hurt
I think his flow sounds kinda wobbly, and it gets more noticeable as the song progresses, but it’s never bad enough to really tarnish the song that much. I really love the dark, yet melodic production, and the writing is nice. I think the song is dope. It’s followed by the title track, which I like even more. I think the production here is really fucking cool, and I love the way Jay’s voice sounds over it. The song is pretty short, and the verse isn’t really that interesting to me lyrically, but it’s not bad.
Walking on clouds, face to face with the lord
Only he knows all the shit that I saw
Face my issues with a grin, every L I take it to the chin
Still growing from my deadly sins, seven of them
I feel like the song could’ve been a bit more fleshed out. Some of the lines felt like filler bars, but overall I do like the song more than the opening track. The song is dope. The next song is called Gravel. The production here feels bouncier than that of the two preceding tracks, and same goes for Jay’s flow here. I think he sounded cool on the first quatrain, but after that the flow gets pretty shaky.
Sorry to say you can’t fuck with my shadow
Been in a hassle with the thoughts that I unravel
Too many words in my head, it’s like scrabble
But I still dazzle the masses
You niggas slow like molasses
His flow recuperates after this point, which was a relief. It just seems like certain lines have too many or too few syllables, so it ends up sounding a little awkward. However, much like with the first track, it’s never bad enough to ruin the song. Overall, the verse is cool, but since it’s so short it’s kinda hard to find anything to grasp onto. With that said, I do like the song overall. I think it sounds good. Yeah, the rapping isn’t mind blowing or anything, but it doesn’t have to be. The song is pretty good to me. It’s followed by Shit Ain’t Easy, which has one of the weirder beats on the record. I think it has some of the best rapping on the album too though. Again, the lyrics aren’t really anything special at all, but I don’t think they’re particularly bad.
I been shedding my fears
I been shifting the gears
2020, yeah, the vision clear
If you didn’t know, I’m top tier
Hope the future bright like a chandelier
Making issues disappear
Tryna be king of the city, where kids become gritty
I been living filthy, I been feeling guilty
The flow is still kinda loose at point, but I actually think it kinda adds to the charm of the song. It kinda reminds me of the way Time raps. I think the song’s pretty good. It’s definitely not a favorite of mine, but I do like it enough to return to it in the future. It’s followed by a major highlight for me entitled Undeveloped. I think the main reason I like this track so much more is just that the production is so good. I actually thought the lyrics were pretty nice here too.
On the train with the Jordan face tryna keep faith alive
Who you know shine as bright in the darkest night?
They tryna cover my light
I always stood out, wasn't fond of fitting in
I just mind my business
I’m a lost cause
You can catch me with my dogs
Take a pause
Is it a loss if you grow from it?
There’s actually a second verse on this track performed by an artist named Shawn May, and I really dug his performance here. I love how the beat switched up during his verse. His voice is pretty reserved, so it’s kinda hard to understand some of what he’s saying, but I think it sounds awesome. The song is dope as hell to me. The next track I wanna talk about is Nerves, which actually has a really cool beat. This beat actually kinda reminded me of Yeezus, except it’s good. I think this beat is awesome. When I first heard the song I didn’t really care for it because Jay’s rapping didn’t stand out much to me. I still don’t think it’s amazing or anything, but I do like it to some extent.
I be drifting in a tussle with my nerves
Speech slurred, stumble over words
Problems occur, the past was a blur
Really grew from the dirt
Threw my hurt in the verse
Had to toss them away
You could see it in my face, I was scared, afraid
Had to man up, now I’m never fazed
There’s only one verse here, and his flow still isn’t great, but I do like the rapping now more than I originally did. I just paid more attention on my later listens I guess. It’s a cool song. The 9th track is entitled Heart. This song has one of the most interesting beats on the project. It’s still experimental just like all the other beats, but it also sounds kinda poppy due to the rhythm of the percussion. It almost sounds like something I’d hear in a Dance track. I think Jay’s flow is smoother here than it is on most of the other tracks too. The song feels a lot less sentimental than most of the others. It’s got a much more lighthearted tone, which is cool. It’s another major highlight for me. It’s still really short just like most of the other tracks, but I don’t mind the brevity. I feel like it works to the song’s benefit. It’s dope as hell to me. The penultimate song is called Margiela. I don’t like it quite as much as the preceding track, but it’s still enjoyable. Once again, the production here is really awesome. Jay’s voice really reminds me of Medhane here. I mean, it reminds me of Medhane all the time, but I didn’t think about it until just now while I’m writing this, so uh… Yeah. I’d say I prefer Jay Cinema as an artist mainly because he’s not an alleged rapist. Anyway, I think the verse here is pretty cool, but nothing about it really captured my attention that much. I think the reason I haven’t been super hooked by the lyricism on this album is mainly because it feels unfocused. There’s not really a specific concept or topic that he goes into on each song, with the exception of Nerves. He usually doesn’t go too in depth about anything in particular.
Where is God?
Got to defy the odds
That been the mission
If you look like me then it isn’t competition
'Cause we all in the same place
All tryna keep faith
Try to live with grace before it’s too late
Can’t lose to anger
Friends became strangers
Staying calm in the middle of danger
Telling stories like a painter
Never had heroes, I'm my own savior
It’s innate, it’s only nature
I seen niggas do stupid shit for the paper
I do still like the song despite my critiques. I think it’s pretty good. The closing song is called Flask. For whatever reason, this song isn’t on digital streaming platforms, so I had to listen to it directly from Bandcamp. I think it’s a pretty great closer though. I was honestly expecting it to just cut off abruptly, but it has a proper outro. I love the lo-fi, piano-driven production here too. The verse is only about 8 bars, but it’s pretty good.
Had to cut the class, but I took the pen and pad
To everyone who did me wrong, y’all gonna feel the wrath
It’s a bloodbath on my path
I found passion in the words, you find yours in a flask
People search for heaven at the bottom of a bottle
Got my foot on the pedal, going full throttle
I’m not crazy about the hook, but it’s fine. I really like the instrumental outro of this song. So yeah, overall I think the song is dope. I’ve already mentioned all the songs that I like from this album, so now I’ll talk about the ones that I won’t be returning to. Track 6 is called Royal Issues. At first I was a bit confused because there aren’t any features credited on this song, but the first verse is very obviously not performed by Jay Cinema. I’m guessing that’s WilfMerson on the mic, but I’m not totally sure. Anyway, the reason I don’t care for this song is that it just didn’t keep me interested. I think the production is pretty cool, but I got tired of Wilf’s repetitive, slow flow very quickly. It’s the longest song on the album, and the relatively long length is definitely noticeable. The song just feels slower than molasses, which to be fair is ostensibly intentional, but it’s just not really my cup of tea. I think the second verse from Jay has one of his sloppiest flows on the album too. I don’t think this song is bad at all, but the only aspect of it that I really enjoyed was the production. It’s mediocre to me overall. The last song I wanna talk about is called Gunshot. Once again, I really love the production here. I actually think the verse is solid too. It just left me wanting more. It feels way too short. They really could’ve fleshed this out into one of the better songs on the album, but it just ends before it has a chance to really kick into gear. I don’t dislike the song, but I can kinda take it or leave it. It’s just okay to me.
This is a dope album. It’s the first full length project I’ve heard from Jay Cinema, and I’m glad I ended up enjoying it. I’d also never heard of WilfMerson before listening to this, and I ended up being really impressed by his work. I hope to hear more work from both of these guys in the future. Obviously if you read the body of this review you know I do have some criticisms though. I think I would’ve gotten more out of this if the lyricism was a bit more focused. There aren’t many lyrics here that really stood out that much to me. Aside from that, I just think Jay’s flow could’ve been a little tighter, but that’s not as important to me. There were only a couple songs that I won’t be returning to, but even those tracks that don’t have replay value aren’t particularly bad. There’s nothing here that I would say is wack. I think the album’s worth checking out, especially if you’re into the current lofi abstract Hip Hop scene. It’s a good record. Check it out.