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Three Piece Puzzle

Jneiro Jarel

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Album Review

Smack in the middle of Jneiro Jarel's debut Three Piece Puzzle, the Brooklyn-born Philly resident and producer-MC opens "Breathin'" crooning full-fledged over a dimly-lit lounge kind of groove with rim-shots and vibe-synthesizer. It could've been a track on D'Angelo's Brown Sugar. In his mid-song monologue, Jarel sums up this genre-hopping album: "To me, in this modern-day music, everybody's doing the same thing. It's like, claustrophobic... I need some space to breathe, man." Leading up to "Breathin'" are hip-hop odes to jazz, like the hard-bop horn-riffed "Big Bounce Theory," the drum'n'bass/electronica of "Crashing Comets" (where every instrument, especially the slow-motion bass, seems to be on barbiturates), the Slum Village-ish "It's Like Fire Yo!!," and "N.A.S.A." — songs with simple lyrics served as a condiment for the Jarel-produced head-nodders. With few guest appearances and all production credits his, this album's credit lies in the fact that Jarel doesn't request this "space to breathe" and then makes a self-indulgent album created in a vacuum. The first segment of "Lock Down" features Jarel recalling his teen years engulfed in hip-hop, soul, and jazz, and how they influenced him as an artist. Still, there's no mistaking Jarel for a lemming, though there are discernible likenesses to some of his hip-hop brethren, such as J Dilla and Count Bass D. Many of his songs are quite foreign territory for most hip-hoppers. Which, ultimately, is the point: confining Jarel to the normal hip-hop box is unfair. "Sun Walkers" is an Afro-Cuban groove with a vibraphone solo and chorus-refrain reminiscent of a Roy Ayers tune, and "Black Cinderella" is about as close as hip-hop has gotten to David Bowie. And while his lyrics can wander toward empty and sound closer to pedestrian freestyles than the kind of well-crafted rhymes that his impeccable production really deserves, it's the musical diversity and genre-bending/reinventing that makes Three Piece Puzzle fresh and one of the best hip-hop-based debuts of its time.


Born: Brooklyn, NY

Genre: Hip-Hop/Rap

Years Active: '90s, '00s

Born in Brooklyn as Omar Jarel Gilyard, future producer/MC Jneiro Jarel spent the early part of his childhood moving around the country due to his mother's job in the U.S. Army, before finally settling down in Houston, TX, in 1985. It was there that Gilyard began performing, both as a solo artist and with his group the Slam Kids, which he started in 1994. In 1998 he decided to move to New York to further pursue his career and, officially changing his name to Jneiro Jarel, began to gain some notoriety...
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Three Piece Puzzle, Jneiro Jarel
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