Bar Exam: Jovon Dangerfield – Underrated (Album)
A One Listen Album Review
My second bar exam of the year is Jovon Dangerfield’s “Underrated.” This one intrigues me, mainly because of the title. Now I’ll admit it, the “underrated” tag doesn’t have to be applied to Jovon himself, it could be talking about numerous things. But, the thing that made me want to listen to this album was that nagging question “what if… Jovon is saying HE is underrated?” So I feel the need to investigate.
My Bar Exam Rules – there aren’t any other than these are all notes from my true first listen. I’m a geek about hip-hop so I may pause or rewind tidbits in order to savor a moment or dissect a rhyme. Also, there may or may not be bathroom breaks. Adding any other rules is kind of crazy. Listening to music should be fun.
I’m Back – We start off with a Gospel music sample at the top. There’s an R&B vibe to the music, and now we have some bars, people.
Kanye West lost his mind again/telling lies again with the President/it’s one thing to be a college dropout it’s another thing to just die within/and we watchin’ it/the problem is obvious/He is the tool/they stay anonymous/they ask him to cotton pick/we are the audience/I can’t hold the vomit inside my esophagus
Jovon is coming at the beat with some fire, talking about how the world is the same since the last time he was on the mic. The devil is up to his same old tricks, the world is messed up, and he’s still persevering and rising above it all. An excellent opening track to the project.
Know – Some horn samples and a fast progression into a fast beat brings Jovon in. There’s not as much grit to the vocals here as there was on the first track. He seems comfortable, and wow, can this man really spit. This beat changes up throughout and enhances what he’s doing here too. This section at the end “this that activist life” seems unnecessary, but the rest of this is great.
No Trippin’ – Another intro that progresses into a thick bass line, and then a screwed up sample to boot. Jovon jumps in dripping with swag, and rocks a different style here as well.
Said I’m living my best life/That’s a lie/Trips to Ralph Lauren kept you fly but dead inside/Roll the dice no cheat codes/This is the game of life/Cobra Kai come squeeze tight like you Corona limes/All this time said I’ve been great am I ignoring signs?/Get up in my business and that’s TMI/See I know the truth in my heart but in between the lines I just wanna swerve from His design just like a DUI/Ask me why
He goes into his philosophy on how to handle pride and how much we care about what other people think. He challenges the listener to seek something that can truly fulfill, while also explaining that this isn’t him preaching to others, he’s talking to himself. Only three tracks in, but this is the best one on an already impressive album.
Resilient Feat. ModernDayRome – At the top of this one, we’re greeted by some razor sharp vocals from ModernDayRome. It’s got a dated sound to it. It’s mainly this synth bass that’s carrying the song. It takes me back and really feels like early 90’s. MDR takes the first verse, and is full of energy and emotion here. He hands the mic to Jovan to take us to the hook again. The flows here are on point, but the beat here is just alright.
Try Feat. B. Martin – The vocals at the top of this are fantastic. The drum kit sample is nice, and Jovon effortlessly threads this flow. I’m enamored by his charisma on the mic. He’s just absolutely bringing it with the versatility in his performances and his writing ability.
Down – There’s a Marimba sample laid over this drum beat. It’s tight and even with this heavily syncopated beat, he’s at home and shows he’s a professional with these flows. His choices as he slows down and speeds up the flow are spot on.
Underrated Feat. Niki LaVaughn – The guest singer gives a shout out to herself to begin the track, which might be a first for me, and then we immediately are into the first verse. He’s talking about how his insecurities show up and cause him anxiety to where he feels overlooked. He goes on to talk about the mistakes he’s made in his life, and thankful to God for picking him up. He’s not self-made, he’s underrated and only made it by the grace of God.
Keys – An eerie bed of synths points to the Sac-town influence, and then to take it one step further, Jovon quotes that E-40/Yay Area/Digable Planets sample in the hook. “We be to rap what key be to lock”
Bustin at these demons against you rippin like some jeans on a big dude/hit the scene clean yean take JC to the venue/Put ya whole team on the menu/KA them boys finna go swing with the ginsu/no need to front in a rental/that’s me I told lies enough I’m wisin’ up so don’t try to tie me up
Screens – Jovon is speaking on how screens can control our lives. It started at a young age for us all, but now it’s an addiction. He comes at it in a storytelling fashion and it’s pretty fresh.
NewLife (Outro) – We close up the album with a really nice vibe. It’s positive, and rolls with some piano licks and some well done vocal samples. The beat switches up a couple more times and Jovon adds intensity with each shift in texture. This is a great finish.
Man… someone once said that the thing your audience remembers most is how you start and how you finish. I feel like this philosophy was considered in the creation of this project. Jovon is an absolute beast on the mic and with the pen. Sonically, the music deviated from the trajectory the album initially seemed to be on, but the performances were all still awe inspiring and this is most definitely a project I will be returning to. I wouldn’t say Jovon Dangerfield is “Underrated” but I’d say he’s overlooked and slept on. Get your ears on this.
Overall Rating: Above The Bar