Label: Secret Agent Records
Rating: 5 / 10
Reviewer: A to the L
Its the typical Hiphop story. Kid hears rap music. Kid imitates his heroes. Kid goes to college and hooks up with other kids who like rap music. Kid gets signed and goes platinum. All this has happened for Jaeon – except for the last part! However he HAS taken his shit a stage further than a lot of other budding lyricists by actually producing and releasing his own album, “Sleepwalker.”
While attending college at Villanova University, outside of Philadelphia, Jaeon established himself in the underground Hip-Hop scene. He would perform at clubs, bars, house parties, and the college radio station, to get heard anywhere that he could. During this time he also became part of a rap group named Chaos, and the group peformed at several venues, opening up for the likes of Naughty by Nature and the Sugar Hill Gang. Chaos disbanded in 2000 as the members of the group all went their separate ways however, and Jaeon has since linked up with a few heads from his younger days to form a group called Black Lung. Its on the back of this link-up that “Sleepwalker” has been released.
Things start off with Jaeon’s lyrical introduction to his audience, ‘Spell It Right.’ Here, he exhibits an impressive multi-syllabilic flow (with, I hate to say it, a distinct Eminem influence) over a rather simplistic piano key loop. The sing-song chorus is also a little cliched which detracts from a quite impressive vocal beginning. ‘My Time To Shine’ also suffers a little from cliche disease – its little more than the run-of-the-mill “its my turn to step up, stay out of my way” stuff that a million other emcees have done before. Some nice strings and a cut up Chris Tucker sample pique the interest a little, but so far there’s nothing to REALLY make you sit up.
The bluesy title track is up next, and improves things a little with the drunken-jazz-singer throaty hook supporting Jaeon in full Marshall Mathers mode. It may sound a little unfair to continue to compare Jaeon with Eminem, especially when Mr Mathers has set the bar so high, but when a cat has modelled himself so much on how Em flows, its impossible not to mention it.
The electronic ’40 Days’ sees Jaeon hook up with his Black Lung counterpart Tommy Mula, but the results are again largely uninspiring – the squelchy beat and the dull vocals of Nicole Zollo on the hook pull things down to an almost unbearable level. This is definitely one of the weakest points on the album.
Luckily things pick up again with ‘Fast Lane.’ Producer Superclay has been responsible for many of the best beats on the album, and here he lays down an addictive Red Hot Chilli Peppers-styled loop. The bouncy feel of the backing track seems to inspire Jaeon too as his delivery here meshes perfectly with the beats to provide one of the more rewindable, if a little more commercial, cuts here.
As the album progresses with ‘Like That’ and ‘I Know’ it quickly becomes apparent that “Sleepwalker” is a rollercoaster experience. After climbing to a high with ‘Fast Lane’, the horrific ‘Like That’ sends the listeners plummeting to earth again. We haven’t just travelled down the drop however – our cart has flew off the rails and hit the ground with a sickening thud. Jaeon again brings in Tommy Mula, and also the rest of the Black Lung boys but methinks this is a similar tactic to the one used by the pretty girl who hangs out with the ugly chicks to make herself look even more attractive. Seriously – the rest of these guys are straight up ass, and the fact that the cheap plastic beat sounds like something rifled from Dre’s reject bin makes things eve worse. From there however, we begin to climb (slowly) again, with Superclay again providing another beat for Jaeon to spit on. This time around, its a moody string heavy concoction with another throaty female on the hook. Its not great by any means, but next to ‘Like That’ anything would sound dope.
Elsewhere, the Illmind-produced ‘Last Laugh’ is worth more than one glance, mainly because of it distinct Wu-ness on the beat. Following this up with the extremely shitty ‘007’ sees my stomach performing another flip. Going down, sir? It seems to be the only direction to take when Black Lung member Dor is handling production – he’s been responsible for ‘Like That’ AND ‘007’ and his stunning record remains consistent with the equally poor ‘On My Way.’ Replaying Europe’s ‘The Final Countdown’ on a cheap keyboard over a shuffly beat is neither big nor clever. Someone needs to just be straight with the guy and tell him how much he’s salting the game here.
With the track sequence of the album though, Jaeon seems to have unintentionally fallen lucky, as the final three tracks round things off incredibly strongly. ‘Daybreak”‘is superb – I ain’t gonna front. Illmind’s beautiful beat and BeeGees-styled sample provides a perfect base for Jaeon to build off, and here he doesn’t disappoint. Its an everyday tale of chasing women down, getting the number, romance and settling down, and it works perfectly. ‘The Poet’s Theme’ continues in the similar strong vein, with Illmind again working magic behind the boards. Why can’t Jaeon work with this cat more? Superclay meanwhile handles the production for the final cut, ‘Here We Go’, and also presses his claim for more recognition with a track that’s similar to the earlier ‘Fast Lane’, and again one that Jaeon sounds extremely comfortable flowing over.
Jaeon shows promise – of that there’s no doubt. He DOES have talent. He DOES have a couple of good producers in Illmind and Superclay backing him up. However he also has the Black Lung squadron pulling in the opposite direction, and this is something that DOES have to be pointed out. Their presence on the album is largely uninspiring at best, and downright bullshit at worst. People hit me off for reviews because they recognise that this site has built a reputation for being honest. Sometimes however, the truth hurts. There’s the guts of a great EP here (including the untitled bonus cut – don’t think I didn’t catch that), but unfortunately some of the great material gets badly lost amongst the Black Lung influenced garbage. To move onwards and upwards Jaeon may well have to cut a few people off. File this under “One For The Future.”