I guess the reason that so many rappers throw so much clutter into their songs, multiple layers of electronic washes, unnecessary musical multi-tracking and all manner of sonic distractions, is to hide the fact that they just aren’t that good at handling the lyrics. Which is ironic for a musical form which is all about the lyrical flow and the dexterity and deftness with which it is delivered.
The first thing that is noticeable about the songs that make up Jeffery is their very openness. With only spacious beats and only enough musical structure to hold things together, it is the vocal content which is the focus of the tracks. Nothing to hide behind, no sonic sleight of hand, no tricks…no style over substance…more like style and substance, but a very minimal substance, very spacious style, which is as it should be.
The opening salvo pretty much tells you all you need to know going in, a lone voice in the wilderness of the metropolis laying out a plan of attack and inviting us into his world. From there song styles fire off in all directions, Mad Dog is a slow, sultry swagger, heavy on the beats, gnarly in the message, We Got It is built on a scatter gun blast of off-beat grooves meaning that the song is never where you expect it to be and seems to be coming at you from unexpected angles, and It’s Alright is a wilfully glitchy, R’n’B ballad pushed into some uncharted trip-hop territory.
And lyrically the material tells of a young man’s hopes and plans, often in stark and no uncertain terms, the language of the street and straight to the point. But that is what rap does best, it looks you in the eye and tells it like it is.
Both Jeffery, the album, and the man behind it, Jfrxshh, are smarter than they might first appear to be, as by keeping the music cut down to such understated and essential sonic building blocks, they embrace the original sounds that the genre was built on. But whilst tipping its hat to the pioneers of the past it is looking firmly to the future. Not just the future for the artist himself but to the future of the musical genre he is wielding.
Music is cyclical, the past is constantly being reinvented and re-appropriated for a new generation and Jeffery proves that it is possible to acknowledge where you have come from musically speaking without taking your eye off your destination. It is this combination of familiarity and freshness, of classical form and cutting-edge function, that means that this is an album that will be embraced in all corners of, not just the urban music world, but in the larger, mainstream world as a whole. And that is a clever thing to be able to do.