Artist: Jamil Mustafa
Album: When Poets Shout
Label: Face Of The Earth
Rating: 8 / 10
Reviewer: A to the L
OK already you’re saying… WHO? Well, although the name may be unfamiliar to you, Jamil Mustafa has been in the game for around 10 years. Without the benefits of venues, consistent radio play, or an established music scene, this Hutchinson, Kansas native has had a difficult time getting his music heard. Despite the odds, Jamil has forged ahead working on projects with his Nomad crew members, performing in and around Kansas, and releasing projects independently. “When Poets Shout” is one such project.
One of the things that jumped out at me on first listen is the confidence Jamil has in his own delivery. What you normally expect with a debut release from an independent artist is a barrage of battle-type braggadocio rhymes and a few themed cuts. Its as if they need to prove to folks exactly WHY they’ve got this record out, and so sometimes I’ve had to suffer almost an entire album of battle lyrics over ill-suited production. EVERYTHING else seems to take a backseat to the emcee’s insistence on reassuring you (and secretly, I think, themselves) of how ill they are. Don’t get me wrong – battling is the essence of Hiphop, but its difficult to take in an entire album of it. (Maybe something Canibus needs to take note of?) Anyways, I’m digressing… like I said JM is confident enough in his delivery to be aware of exactly what type of rhymes match which types of beats, and while there is a small element of look-how-ill-I-am lyrics, the majority of the album surprised me with its intelligence and spirituality.
Right from the first cut ‘Motivation’, the modus operandi is clear. Phat beats, and deep lyrics. Over a slow-tempo rumbling bassline and a sprinkling of piano keys, Jamil goes right for the rotten heart of the music industry. “Companies divest – you speak truth and they insult ya, Colonize us, divide us, then they resell us our culture.” OK, maybe Industry Rule #4080 is a popular target, but this is still on point, and definitely ill.
The next couple of cuts serve to illustrate the range of Jamil’s abilities. ‘One Man, One Mic’ is an autobiography of sorts, where Jamil blends his experiences and influences with a dose of real-world reality – Reagan-nomics, science and biology, religion, and conspiracy theories all get twisted into the mix. Although the beat is a little bland, it doesn’t detract from the overall dopeness of the lyrics. On the other hand, ‘The Unprecedented’ is one of the few battle styled tracks on here, and even at that, Jamil still drops some gems of knowledge. With the world famous ‘Impeach The President’ break at its core, this one is an uptempo winner.
As the album progresses its also worth pointing out the part that producer Pajamaz plays here. Most of the beats on here compliment Jamal perfectly, and range from the cinematic landscapes of ‘High Resolution’ with its snare and piano mix, to the jazzy feel of ‘I Don’t Like You’ – a polite but firm “get off the stage” call to wack emcees who follow trends. He’s not afraid to bust out the sampler either as the previously mentioned Honeydrippers’ influence, and the Tribe ‘Push It Along’ drums on the buttery ‘Figures Of Speech’ illustrate.
Standout cut though has to be ‘Face Of The Earth’. Aided on this track by a dark brooding bassline with a bubbly portion of strings, Jamil rips shit up, helped this time by colleagues Moody and Hadji. Top notch production is equalled by concious (but never preachy) lyrics. I love this.
So whats the verdict? Lets put it this way – I know how much of a love / hate relationship have with Talib Kweli. Those who love him know why they love him. Those who hate him point to his lack of breath control, and his tendency to rush his words, overshadowing his genuine skills, and thus rendering him almost unlistenable. To the Kweli lovers – pick this up. The similarities are amazing in terms of Jamil’s actual voice, and the vibe and lyrical content of the whole album. To the Kweli haters – take away Kweli’s negative points and replace them with a confident, on point flow whilst keeping the focus on intelligent lyrical content. What you’re left with is “When Poets Shout”, and I suggest you pick this up.