As someone who is both a hip hop enthusiast and proponent, I try my best not to limit an album or artists potential audience by breaking out the old “if you like that, you’ll like this!” routine, but sometimes it seems hard to avoid. For instance, to use a topical & local example, it seems hard to imagine that you’d get the same level of enthusiasm from one of the random dudes on Twitter proclaiming Classified’s latest album to be the best thing since sliced rap-bread, if you played them Jesse Dangerously’s new album Humble & Brilliant.
That’s not to say you can’t be fans of both albums, I certainly am, but I guess the point I’m labouring to make here is simply this: if you like smart rap (“smart rap” could also be called “nerdcore”, which I see associated with JD quite often), you should like the hell out of Humble & Brilliant. And make no mistake, this is smarty-pants rap of a high caliber – the album opens with a song called file_id.diz, which, despite my roles as the hill’s tech guy and my day job as a pseudo-computer guy, I needed to Michael Google it to have any idea about what it was.
Not that there’s anything wrong with smart rap, Jebus knows we can use all the smart-filled hip hop we can get to offset the mostly not-smart-at-all rap that is popular or mainstream nowadays. And as Jesse himself points out on How Shall I Send Thee?, MC’s once aspired to the “genius” moniker (Kwame The Boy Genius anyone?), but that seems to have gone out of style unfortunately.
I don’t want to leave you with the impression that Humble & Brilliant is all complex theorems in rap-lyric form, there’s plenty of good old fashioned rap braggadocio to be had here – the brooding, bassline & horns driven Halifax Rap Legend is a prime example. The irrepressible Timbuktu shows up on Tim I Said No Guests!, and there’s even a tap-dance break, courtesy of Audra Williams (the only tap-dance break in Canadian or rap history in general?) on Bring Your Girlfriend to Rap Day so there’s fun to be had as well. Musically, the album also succeeds, as its mix of traditional hip hop sounds and organic instrumentation provided by Jesse in his producer guise (he also plays the Children’s glockenspiel, ukulele, chord organ, and drum kit at various points) keeps things interesting.
As if all waffle above weren’t reason enough to cop Humble & Brilliant for yourself, it has the awesome artwork above done by Halifax’s Mike Holmes and comes with a “70-page chapbook of lyrics and liner notes. Reads like a novel or textbook, only more brilliant!”. Sounds like a good deal to me, so go grab one while they last.