A 1-Listen Album Review

It’s a new year, so it’s about time for some new hip-hop to add to my collection. I started the year off with my first listen being New Jeruse’s (NJ) album Bread Crumb Trail. I had no previous introduction to the Lanham, Maryland native but this first week of 2018 there were no other drops on my radar. So, I opened up Apple Music and pressed “play.”

The Introduction

At the top of the album we’re given an introduction of what to expect in the coming 45 minutes. He explains that the tracks on this project were written as he grew in his pursuit of God. This album therefore will be like a “Bread Crumb Trail,” so to speak, for the listener.

The second track, “What Do You See?” brought some anticipation with it. Like I said, I’d never heard NJ’s music. There was a 2 minute intro track, then it took over a minute and a half into this song before he busts a flow. By that time I had almost made up my mind to hit the skip button. I wanted him to jump all over this track from the downbeat. However, once he’s finally in it feels like we’re moving somewhere. There’s a switch in the intensity of the instrumental right before he starts to rap, and the intensity in his voice matches that quite well. Topically, he’s outlining the dissension in our country, alluding to end times, and ultimately drops a challenge to live your best life now before the time is up.

“A G For Jesus” is a well developed song.  Good storytelling in hip-hop is difficult, and Jeruse rolls through this song easily. I want to hear more storytelling from him in the future, as it seems to be a strong suit for him. There’s something distracting in the instrumental here for me. There are some great layers to the bed of music on this song, but there’s a synth/pipe-sounding riff that is too forward in the mix for me, and distracts me from the lyrical display in the song.

Dope Quotables

Track 4 is entitled “I Just Wanna Be Free.” This one plays like an interlude. Not much of a performance to it, with just a lot of cymbal swells into some talking moments. However, he stays honest and transparent in his earnest seeking of the Lord.

“Run!” — He switched it on me with this song. It begins with some upbeat ad-libs, and I was anticipating some double-time twisting but he slowed it up with a halftime flow. Regardless, New Jeruse has a great confidence and demeanor about him. The music on this one has some big bass and a chipmunk soul vocal sample, which is very nice. This song particularly didn’t have a strong hook, making it hard for me to differentiate between verse and chorus. Not every song needs a hook, but for some reason every time this one gets to what is (hopefully) intended to be a hook, I find myself asking “is this the hook?”

Track 6 “House in Order” is the strongest on the project. The beat isn’t the greatest, (below the bar) but the concept, flow and performance is above the bar for me. The flavor here is a bit ‘old school CHH’ but that’s not a bad thing. Some good quotes on this track too:

Get the whole house in order/
Before God raises His hands and brings the slaughter/
Shaken down like leaves on trees in autumn/
If you not connected to the true vine this ya warning

Feeling Like a Champ

The next track is “Champion” and New Jeruse continues to impress with his skills on the mic. Dude can rock a mic, and his upbeat flow on this song is reminiscent of Q-Tip. Some of the choices with the production on this track are interesting for me. There are some distracting synths, and there’s a vocalist feature but NJ still chooses to sing, making the hooks of such a promising song not so appealing to the ear.

There’s a lot of questions that I ask myself when I listen to albums. Fluidity between tracks matters to me a lot, and there is a lot that comes with that. Fluidity has to do with concepts, creative direction, and the overall sonic experience. Lacking in any or all of these areas can create a slump on an album. “PUSH” is the track that marks the beginning of a slump for me. The song starts out promising, with a sample dropping right at the top and then a tremendous beat forming out of that. This track has the best beat on the album. Conceptually it’s a song that challenges the listener to keep praising, praying, and pushing through any trouble you face in life. (Pray Until Something Happens) However, the direction of this song doesn’t seem fleshed out. There are some aggressive “PUSH!” overdubs throughout that don’t match the tone of the song. The explanation of PUSH was really ‘on the nose’ for me as well and I wish that concept was somehow implemented creatively into the song. (Listen to KB “DNOU”) Lastly, New Jeruse has a laid back demeanor on this song, the performance presents like a freestyle and it’s raw, but then at the end when he begins to yell I wasn’t feeling it.

Bringing it Home

The next three tracks, “Earnestly Praying,” “Do’n Too Much,” and “Labor Pains” had a heavy slump factor throughout. NJ has some serious rapping chops and on “Earnestly Praying” I was feeling the rapidity of his rhymes. His giftedness on the mic is evident throughout this entire project. But much like some of these previous tracks, it was difficult for me to vibe with the musical choices made through this section of the album.

New Jeruse finishes his offering with a quintessential altar call final track. With some double time flows throughout, “Giving You My All” is a song about Surrender, and it is an unashamed sharing of the Gospel. He even points to “the sinner’s prayer” which is a nice touch. The vocalist feature on this track is on point as well.

To conclude, there was a lot of promise with this record. I was continually impressed by New Jeruse and his rapping chops. On the other hand, I was underwhelmed by the overall production and mixing of this album. Keeping that in mind and then throwing in some creative inconsistencies, these things made the listening experience less than stellar for me. While NJ gained a new fan today, I have to give this piece of art a Below The Bar rating.

Rating: Below The Bar

-Luc

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