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Jerusalaam Come

Juice Aleem

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Album Review

The military uniform, the fez, the scimitar — one look at the cover photo and you know this is not going to be an album about rolling deep at the club. And you're right: Juice Aleem's sound is sharp, spare, funky, and frequently dubwise, his inflections frequently reggae-inflected, his flow calm and self-possessed, and his lyrics unapologetically didactic. Those familiar with the tropes will also recognize that the brand of didacticism he favors is basically along the lines of Five-Percent Nation doctrine: lots of references to the Mothership, criticisms of Asians and homosexuals, warnings about the dangers of pork, etc. Let's leave aside for now the question of why and whether hip-hop bigotry should be given a free pass, and focus instead on the music, which is something of a wonder: "The Fallen (Gen. 15:13)" is built on a slow and dignified rhythm and a reggae bassline, both of which contrast nicely with Aleem's spitting flow; "KunteKinteTarrDiss" is unsettled, strange, and deeply funky; "Blues Block Party" is explicitly reggae-flavored and one of the strongest tracks on the album; "Church of Rock" leavens standard-issue homophobia with a cool, herky-jerky rhythm. Now let's pick up the bigotry question again: is standard-issue homophobia OK when it's leavened with a cool, herky-jerky rhythm? And although the protagonist in "The Killer's Tears" is clearly ambivalent about his activities as a murderer of infidels, it's less clear whether Aleem himself shares that ambivalence. (That sword and military uniform only deepen one's concern.) Then there's "Shut the **** Up," which is just plain unconstructive. One might give him full points for the music, but it's questionable whether Aleem's lyrics really ought to be given a free pass.

Biography

Born: Birmingham, England

Genre: Hip-Hop/Rap

Years Active: '00s

Birmingham, England, MC Juice Aleem got his start as one-half of hip-hop experimentalists New Flesh (with Toastie Taylor). With this pedigree and his defiant staccato delivery somewhere between Pharoahe Monch and Dizzee Rascal, and a lyrical style that excels both inside and round about the beat, it was little surprise that his solo debut, 2009's Jerusalaam Come, would ravenously gather up critical praise....
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Jerusalaam Come, Juice Aleem
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