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This Or That ….. Jeru The Damaja

by Travis on September 29, 2008

After a two week hiatus, we bring back “This or That”. I’ll warn you guys right now that I’m tired, unmotivated and basically all around not feeling very creative right now, so hopefully this will be at least a half way decent read. Two weeks ago, we had the Bay Area legend, Too Short on “This Or That”. To me, it was surprising that Life Is…Too Short won, but I was surprised at the closeness found between the other three albums, which had Born to Mack with 14 votes, Shorty the Pimp with 13 and Short Dog’s In The House with 12. Interesting indeed.

This Week

This week, we talk about probably one of the more underrated MC’s, in Jeru The Damaja. His debut album, The Sun Rises in the East was released during the magical year of 1994, and packed Primo beats with the lyrical musings of Jeru The Damaja, which made for an excellent album filled with quality hip hop. Two years later, The Damaja would reappear with Wrath of the Math in ’96. On the album, he took on the blossoming “jiggy” phase of Puffy and his Bad Boy crew on “Ya Playin’ Yaself”, went after The Fugees on “Black Cowboys” and even had something to say to Blahzay Blahzay on “Whatever”. Backed by more insane Primo beats, his second album deserves to be mentioned up there with the classics. Which is the better effort? Which is preferred by the WYDU readers? We shall see….

The Sun Rises in the East

My introduction to Jeru The Damaja was through the lead single, “Come Clean”. I was simply in awe of the song and it still ranks as one of my top 5 favorite songs of all time. Primo created a beat that The Source accurately described as “chinese water torture”. The track mirrored some of the feelings I was having toward rap at that time. The west coast gang bang was starting to dominate the sounds, which I quickly grew tired of, so when Jeru ripped off the first verse, the beat wasn’t the only thing that caught my attention:

You wanna front what?
Jump up and get bucked

If you’re feeling lucky duck
Then press your luck

I snatch fake gangsta MC’s and make em faggot flambe
Your nine spray my mind spray
Malignant mist steadily pumps the funk
The results you’re a gang stuffed in a car trunk

You couldn’t come to the jungles of the
East poppin that game

You won’t survive get live catchin wreck is our thing

I don’t gang bang or shoot out bang bang

The relentless lyrics the only dope
I slang
I’m a true master you can check my credentials
Cuz I choose to use my infinite potentials

Got a freaky, freaky, freaky-freaky flow

Control the mic like fidel castro locked cuba

So deep that you can scuba dive/my jive
Origin is unknown like the Jubas

I’ve accumulated honies all across the map

Cuz I’d rather bust a nut then bust a cap
Ya back in fact my rap snaps ya sacroilliac
I’m the mack so i don’t need to tote a Mac
My attack is purely mental and its nature’s not hate

It’s meant to wake ya up out of ya brainwashed state

Stagnate nonsense but if you persist

You’ll get ya snotbox bust you press up on this

I flip hoes dip none of the real niggas slip
You don’t know enough math to count the mics that I ripped

Keep the Dirty Rotten Scoundrel as his verbal weapons spit

I was pretty amped for the release of the album, and I can’t say I was disappointed when it dropped in the summer of ’94. It was a up there with the other classics that were dropping at the time. The lead-off track and soon to be second single, “D. Original” was a great jump off into the mind of Jeru. Primo’s hard drums filled your ear drums and with chaotic piano keys lacing the track, it was something made of pure hardness.

The album was blessed with classic New York hip hop from track to track. His “Prophet” saga was launched on The Sun Rises In The East, with Jeru playing a super hero character fighting some deadly sins, such as Ignorance. “Da Bitchez” is a classic track that Primo just murders. The horns come out sounding so lovely, it’s all you can do not to nod your head to it. All in all a quality album, that came out during the pinacle of hip hop.

Wrath of the Math

Apparently, Jeru was a little peeved at some people when he started writing Wrath of the Math. The Fugees, Blahzay Blahzay and even Biggie caught some of Jeru’s wrath. Jeru and Primo took the beat from Junior M.A.F.I.A.’s “Player’s Anthem”, flipped it and turned it into their own track, “Ya Playin’ Yaself”. It’s true that people pissing you off sometimes brings out the best in you (I’m sure there is a more poetic way to say it, but I’ll just cut to the chase) and Jeru proves that by dropping some quality tracks.

The most obvious “check ya self before ya wreck ya self” moment comes in the form of “Ya Playin Yaself”, which sees Jeru give the Bad Boy label in general the bronx raspberry. Jackin’ the beat from JM’s “Player’s Anthem,” Jeru goes for delf and takes a big dump on a movement that would plague late 90′s hip hop.

Now I don’t push a Lex
Others had their turn to flex,
Jeru is up next

All, these so called players up in the rap game

Got brothers on the corner selling cooked cocaine

It used to be LaToya and, jim hats

But now it’s uzis macs and, g-packs of cracks

Everybody’s psycho or some type of goodfellow

But me I keep it real that’s all swine like jello

Don’t drink Cristal, and I can’t stand Mo

Never received currency for moving a kilo
Or an ounce, make em bounce to this fake-pimp free flow

I never knew hustlers, confessed in stereo

Or on video get caught you’ll know who turned State’s
Evidence, murder weapon, confession and fingerprints
Mama always said watch what comes out your mouth

Tight case for the DA from here to down South

Knowledge wisdom understanding like
King Solomon’s wealth

You’re a player but only because you be playin yours

While from the outside, it might seem like a twist on the “Come Clean” subject matter, that was the beauty of Jeru, is that he wasn’t afraid to speak his mind on subjects such as the Big Willie-isms of the day or anything else he thought was played out.

He tackled the Fugees on “Black Cowboys”. I’m not even sure how this little war of words started. Wyclef mentioned a “false prophet” on The Score LP, which was a jab at Jeru. Jeru answered back when he kicks the song off with “I heard some MC’s wanna bring it/But a female is one of their strongest men/When I step to you don’t seek refuge..”

The Verdict

The production on both albums are top quality and Jeru is one point on the mic with both projects as well. Jeru’s debut album is a somewhat darker album, but Wrath of the Math is a more venomous LP. Putting the two albums together side by side and it’s very difficult to pick one over the other. Personally myself, I’ve always been more of a fan of The Sun Rises in the East, but I wouldn’t debate anyone picking his second album.

Verdict: The Sun Rises in the East

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