Album: Mama’s Only Son
Rating: 9 / 10
Reviewer: A to the L
Welcome back to Atlanta. Since our last visit, the dirty dirty has blown the eff up, with Lil Jon, Ying Yang and Luda laying the smackdown on commercial radio airwaves. One imagines however that this must make it even more difficult to get noticed than before for Jahah, who with last year’s well-received debut, “Ear For Music” showed another, more soulful side to his Good Company emcee alter-ego, Dirty J. In a city that’s renowned for its crunk, its easy to imagine that artists with a more refined sound might get overlooked in the stampede to throw drinks, chairs, and other people around the dancefloor.
Neverless, Jahah has pressed on and continued to work the angles – from his production and emceeing with Good Company, to his own solo work, to his work on the boards for other artists in the Beezee70 stable – he’s been putting it down. So much so that meetings with heads in the Roc-A-Fella camp are due to take place soon to discuss some production work. The latest album release, “Mama’s Only Son” sees Jahah go for solo once again, allowing him the freedom to control his output that is never quite there in the shared group setting.
Now regular Altrap.com readers (and A to the L dickriders) might notice on checking this out that several of the tracks here were featured on the promotional mix I completed for Beezee70 a couple of years ago. Here however they’re in fully mastered form, some with additional musical work completed too.
Got it? Good.
Things kick off with ‘Afrodeziac’, a track with simple ingredients, that when blended together create the perfect head-nodding opener. A combination of one-two bass kicks, sharp claps, and hypnotic strings set the scene for Jahah to straight up rip the mic (admittedly with some helpful punch-ins). It seems like while still hanging onto the soulful feel on the production, Jahah has decided to bring a little more spitkicking into the mix.
For those who did quite nicely thank you without all that nasty rapping on the debut album, you shouldn’t get dismayed just yet. Don’t think that Jahah has totally abandoned what made “Ear For Music” so listenable – ‘Tonight’ should serve to calm your fears. Thing of this as mid-tempo lounge music, although not in the typical sense – yeah you might wanna throw this cut on in the background at a dinner party or something, but the fact that the track still carries a nice little bit of oomph means that you’d more than likely be jacking up the volume before serving the food.
Another couple of party-type tracks follow. The musical arrangement on ‘Everybody Up’ is strikingly similar to ‘Can’t Believe’ from the first album. The fact that THAT song was one of the best on the album, means that a little copying of a successful formula is forgiveable. Here, as with the original, an addictive hook sung over simple-but-effective piano keys hits the target perfectly. ‘Saturday’ continues the feel-good vibe – built around a summery guitar lick, and a heady chorus that to me at least seems inspired by the Jackson 5, this features Jahah and labelmate Mr Moody breaking down the ingredients to a perfect weekend.
You want more smoothed out stuff? Cuts like ‘All I Need’, ‘Official’ and ‘Oooh’ will definitely hit the spot for you. ‘Official’ in particular stands out with its clever use of old school horns and strings, and fantasically floaty chorus. ‘Oooh’ meanwhile is the only track on the album where Jahah hands over the production reins to someone else. Here, his cousin J.Hen does the boardwork and the soulful soundscape he creates for Jahah shows why his talents have earned him production work on the new Lloyd Banks and 213 (Warren G, Snoop, Nate Dogg) albums. Elsewhere on the album, the gospel-tinged piano track ‘Gone’ is the closest thing you’ll get to a ballad on the album. As Jahah talks about a situation where love leaves a relationship, its hard to fight the feeling that, although he sounds and looks 😉 nothing like the late Barry White, this track and the way Jahah sings it, would perfectly compliment the big guy’s style and persona.
‘Shinin’ Star’ is another track that featured on last year’s promo, and it still knocks, with Jahah again proving that he knows how to write memorable hooks, although its similarity in chorus to the later ‘Back In The Day’ is striking. ‘Here We Are Again’ might also sound a little familiar to many, as it flips the same Manhattans sample that Fat Joe used on ‘All I Need’ last year – I do think that Jahah builds his track around the sample much better than Mr Minkcoat from the Bronx though.
The last quarter of the album finishes very strongly indeed – ‘No Time To Front’ loops the opening sample of Zapp’s ‘Dancefloor’, and combines it with a suitably squelchy bassline and a bugged out vocal chorus a la G. Clinton. ‘Back In The Day’ is a feelgood look back at childhood – aided by another addictive piano and chimes blend, a guest verse from Stan Splif, and as already mentioned, a chorus that owes a lot to ‘Shini’ Star’. ‘Its For You’ meanwhile is sandwiched between these two tracks, and mellows the mood out, with a heartfelt ode from Jahah to his mother which skillfully walks the tightrope between listenable and cheesy.
“I remember we didn’t have much but never went without,
You taught me from the ground up what life was all about.
Like them scraps you were given, turned em into Thanksgiving,
Made every single day into a holiday.”
At 13 tracks deep (after trimming back the intros and interludes), “Mama’s Only Son” represents a nice investment for your hard earned. Brimful of different musical looks, its shows a steady and positive progression both in sound, and in personal outlook from Jahah. Those who already have “Ear For Music” should be in no doubts about picking this up. Those who are new to the world of Jahah and Beezee70 should give this serious thought – not only is this one of the most positive releases of the year, musically, its one of the top ten. Go grab it.