Thursday, November 22, 2007

Reviews:: Jesse Dangerously - Verba Volant

Viewing the Halifax hip hop scene from the outside, my impression of Jesse Dangerously was as kind of an anti-Johnny Gill figure - he has a tendency to rub some people the wrong way. This probably stems from the fact that he's a smart guy with strong principles and opinions, both of which he has very few reservations taking people to task over. Fortunately, when those same qualities are harnessed and aimed at creating hip hop, some quality music can emerge. There is plenty of quality to be found of Jesse's latest album Verba Volant.

We might as well start with that name. According to captain Google, Verba Volant means something like "words fly way" in Latin. Not having heard much of Jesse's previous work, this title and his rep had me preparing to digest an album full of painfully serious, quadruple-time raps about feminism. Not to say that would necessarily be a bad thing (note: that last bit is a lie), but it was a pleasant surprise to find Jesse covering a wide range of topics, including some good old-fashioned battle raps, and displaying a healthy sense of humor. And, except for a few exceptions, even when he gets the speed raps going, I was still able to discern what he was saying, despite his slight lisp. This is a positive thing.

Believe it or not budding young speed-rappers, although speed does indeed win the day in events like the 100 metre dash or Nascar, sometimes it's better to follow Ultra's advice and ease back on the tempo a tad to ensure people can pick up what you're putting down. In other words, if you have something smart to say, slow down so I can actually hear what it is. Right then, down off the soapbox I go.

Continuing a trend he started on his last EP, Inter Alia, Jesse enlists two of his Backburner mates to split up the production duties. Half the tracks are done by London, Ontario's Timbuktu and the other by Halifax/Toronto's(?) Fresh Kils. Although I don't have a listing of who did which track, I think both did fine work. There's plenty of satisfying drums with enough other sounds layered on top to keep things interesting. Verba Volant also appears to be weed carrier free, as pretty much all of the guest MC's that contribute a verse to the album are solid.

After a rather nice scratched-up intro, Aww Shucks, leads things off with some sinister horns that I enjoy. Jesse uses a cadence that kind of matches someone saying "awww shucks". I have no idea how to describe this, like an inflection rising on the "awww" and then the "shucks" coming out faster like the back end of a sneeze. There we go, he uses the sneeze cadence for this song. That could be the stupidest thing I've written in a while. The bouncy Celebrity Nudes sounds like a nerdcore flip of an Ugly Duckling song. Unless Ugly Duckling are nerdcore, which they probably aren't. "I'll say Jesse, but really can't see me since I got a little fame like Billy Danzini". Here's a little equation that I've found to be correct perhaps 99% of the time: M.O.P. references = goodness.

So Much Fun proves a underground rapper can make a song for his girlfriend that can be enjoyed by people other than his girlfriend. The title track boasts a classic hip hop beat, perhaps my favorite beat on the album. It also features solid verses from Newfoundland's Johnny Hardcore, who sounds an awful lot like Paris in his prime (which is tremendous) and ginzuintriplicate, who combines lines from LL and Scarface into the excellent "Don't call it a comeback when I sit in my four-cornered room stabbing your picture with thumbtacks". Knocking drums, shakers, and (Halifax-based) Newfoundland singer-singwriter Don Brownrigg's fine work on the hook combine with Jesse's speed raps to make The Days Arc a standout. These rapper-indie collabos are in vogue right now, but I like this one, doesn't feel forced as some of them can.

Nerdcore is a rather unfortunate name for a genre. I can't lie, the mere association of this label has dissuaded me from checking out rappers in the past, Jesse D included. But, and here's where the G.I. Joe styled lesson comes in kids, my enjoyment of this album only proves that making judgements about an artist or album based on how it's categorized is rarely ever smart business. If you are at all interested in clever lyrics paired with quality production, Verba Volant is worth checking out.

MP3:: Jesse Dangerously - Aww Shucks

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Posted at 10:35 AM by naedoo :: 2 comments

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At 1:39 PM, Blogger Aidan did sayeth:

Haha, nearly fell off my chair when i saw 'hip hop' and 'halifx' in the same sentence. I'm from near Halifax in the UK and I've been trying to cover our local hip hop scene.

well written review.



At 2:10 PM, Blogger naedoo did sayeth:

haha, me fault, very big-headed of me to assume everyone would know what Halifax I was talking about. But I suppose there's only two Halifaxes that count, mine and yours, Halifax Tennessee can go pound it.

Thanks for the kind words and for stopping by.


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