Sunday, June 1, 2008

Kick a Hole In the Speaker, Pull the Plug, Then I

Jet released his fairly obscure debut EP, Life Afta Darkness, in 1992 on Righteous Records... that's the label owned by Paris (of "Bush Killa" infamy). He's had some struggles getting his music out there (more on that later), but you recognize Jet from a number of guest appearances, including Pooh-Man's diss track at his former Dangerous Music Family, "Judgement Day" (this is the song that made me say, "hey, I know this guy!" and buy his EP when I saw it in the store way back when) and a couple songs on Paris's Unleashed album.

The title track "Life Afta Darkness" uses the same basic instrumental samples as Grand Daddy IU's "Sugar Free" (and Compton's Most Wanted used that same year on "It's a Compton Thang"), but adds some new live instrumentation on top of it. The liner notes read, "bass keyboards, flutes, strings, bass synth and all otha O.G. shit played by: Gina Blacknell." Flutes? What flutes? Well, anyway... the live instrumentation awkwardly walks the tightrope between really adding something new to the song, making an old sample fresh and original and just layering a bunch of crap on top of a song that doesn't fit. Most of the time it's pretty good, but... a little less would have been better.

The song itself is your typical gangsta bravado rap, flipped into a cool little narrative of how he spends his nights (dealing drugs, winning at dice, etc). He's no great wordsmith (Kool G. Rap won't be threatened by any verse Jet ever kicks), but he's capable enough to hold your attention and keep you interested in everything he's saying.

"How'm I gonna make ends meet?
A nigga steady tryin' ta brush me to tha concrete.
I'm just a young, black male in society;
I only smoke coward niggas when they try me.
I'm a well known fugitive.
Positive ain't Jet, 'cause I'm negative..
But for real, though, life is precious;
Seventeen years of livin', and all of 'em wreckless.
'Cause funk? Man, it attracts to me;
But in the end, I leave punks smokin' like a factory."

Now, the 12" is just a single, featuring the street, radio and instrumental versions of the title track, but the cassette version features two other songs as well.

"Dank Head" uses the obvious "Mary Jane" sample (to match it's equally obvious subject matter), but takes a particularly lively portion, even looping thevocals behind Jet's lyrics (which sometimes obscures his lyrics, but that's ok). And then it regularly breaks down into the "Yo Kit, What's the Scoop?" break before kicking back in. ...I suppose this must be where the flute credit comes into the liner notes... they must've replayed the original loop as opposed to sampling it. It does sound maybe a little tinny, now that I'm questioning it. In that case, I'm even more impressed.

I don't recognize the backing to the last song, "Salt Shaker" - a song about those who would claim to be your friend, but behind your back, tell your business to everyone including the police - but it's similar in tone... even a little more 70's funkish. On all three tracks the instrumentals overrun the lyrics, but Jet's flow is definitely up to the task of keeping your head nodding with each song.

I should point out: the radio and instrumental versions of "Life Afta Darkness" are featured on the cassette release as well. The radio release is pretty cool, because he re-records all of his vocals and replaces the curses with new lyrics. And does a good job of it - it doesn't sound like, "this clearly isn't the version I should be listening to" like most radio lyrics.

So, yeah. Jet did some guest spots after this but his career has been a struggle... after leaving Righteous, he signed with Snake Pit Records. He wound up leaving them, though, before putting anything out. He then moved to Strickly Platnum Records, changed his name to J.E.T., and recorded his second album (or first, depending how strict you are about EPs counting as albums), American Dream in 1999. It got a pretty limited release and reception, so his next album was shelved (and indeed the entire label went under). Finally, in 2005, he changed his name to Jet Black and formed his own label, Hard Earned Records. He put out an album, also called Hard Earned, which you can still order from CDBaby. And, yup, he has a myspace. He promises a new album, called Intentional Grindin, in 2008.

No comments:

Post a Comment