On “Greetings”, the third track from his debut album for Los Angeles’ Brainfeeder imprint, Jeremiah Jae rhymes “I’m climbing up the stairs, a beautiful view / All I see is false idols, controlling the roost” – lyrics that feel both on point and ironic. There are indeed plenty of false idols controlling things in music right now and an increasingly unbearable ratio of noise to quality. At the same time the meteoric rise of Brainfeeder, thanks in no small part to the equally meteoric rise of its head and founder Flying Lotus, has led the label to feel a tad like a false idol too, with anything coming through its doors automatically embraced by large swathes of the music press and public, seemingly with little intent to critically look at what’s being released in depth.
Following a similar path to other artists on the label, the Chicago rapper and producer relocated to Los Angeles before delivering his debut. Listening to “Raw Money Raps” it’s hard to say whether or not that has had any direct impact on the music. Ever since he first appeared on radars over two years ago, the music seems to have more or less followed a similar path with gritty hip hop production that is both imbued with ghosts of the east coast’s glorious past and an irreverence towards what it can become. As for the lyrics, well ever since seeing him live last year I’ve been of the firm belief that quite frankly I’d be happier with instrumentals only, however on record the vocal side of his craft is actually a lot more pleasing and bearable than it is live.
Being the most obvious rap/hip hop orientated release on the label since Samiyam’s album, “Raw Money Raps” is a somewhat refreshing release yet Jae’s dual approach – as a rapper and producer – and his admitted attempt at delivering an album that floats in the space between dreams and waking life (read more on that here if you wish) means that overall “Raw Money Raps” feels a tad self-indulgent and underwhelming. On repeated listen its 19 tracks – most of which are quite short – solidify into a fairly non-descript whole, with the odd spark of genuine interest, and even then it’s never necessarily enough to make you want to email everyone you know telling them to check it out (not even sure people do that anyway, I guess you’d post an OMFG check it out FB share or something, you get the point).
The overall lo-fi, fuzzy sonic quality of the production on “Raw Money Raps”, alongside the strangely processed vocals and at times under the breath/whispered quality of the delivery, definitely embodies this idea of exploring the space between waking life and dreams - yet it also feels ultimately unaccomplished, and as mentioned above it ends up coming across as slightly self-indulgent.
At its best, “Raw Money Raps” evokes a classic rap vibe – indebted to boom bap to a degree with its neck snapping beats – that’s forward thinking, rather than merely trying to imitate and when that happens it snaps you from this dreamlike lull the album seems to induce (which I guess is intended). “Seasons” and “Greetings” are both good examples of this and highlights, yet overall considering the amount of tracks and where and when this is coming out “Raw Money Raps” falls short. It’s nice, but that’s about it.