If you really look back on the career of Jeru The Damaja, the takeaway is this. Here was a man from the borough of Brooklyn, who released two underground classic LP’s in the mid 90′s, both produced entirely by DJ Premier. Yet this event happened during a transitional phase that hip-hop was going through, that just so happened to be taking place in his own backyard: Biggie Smalls and the Bad Boy explosion.
Jeru represented a voice for the underground heads, many whom were against Puff and company’s practice of shiny suits and shameless beat-jacking. Jeru had no problem calling Puff out by name on “One Day”, a one-verse, white label promo that would set up his second LP, Wrath Of The Math. In the song, Jeru played rap’s superhero, out to “save hip-hop”, before it was cliché to do so.
Looking back, Jeru – and other rappers with the same intent – failed that mission. This was an era before cats started to use the phrase “hip-hop is dead”, believing that it still could be salvaged, and that it was worth saving. But these two classic albums were released at a turning point in rap music, when the old rules would be left behind. Things would never be the same again.
At that time, we saw many rappers try to conform to the sudden shift in sound that was happening in hip-hop. Formerly raw acts were abandoning Timberland for Versace, in an embarrassing period of bad music and poor crossover attempts. Jeru was never guilty of this.
Jeru has released a few small indie projects over the last two decades, but the Perverted Monk has largely been retired to the temples, almost as if he was blackballed by the major label system, after making moves on Puff. With The Hammer, rap’s Winter Soldier returns from the dead, his mission still in tact.
Although this is only an EP, what’s different this time around is that Jeru is again paired with one of the greatest producers of all time; but it’s not DJ Premier, but instead, The Large Professor. Although only an EP, The Hammer, sounds as if Jeru never put his mic down, staking his claim in its brief, under 30 minute playtime.
Hip-Hop heads have been beaten and abused by an influx of subpar and downright bad material over the past two decades, which is what makes Jeru and Extra P’s approach so great. This is unapologetic, Brooklyn basement rap, as songs like “Point Blank” and “The Hammer” find Jeru back in his element.
On “So Raw”, Jeru bodies a sleazy loop, meshed with a cut up Big Daddy Kane sample, paying homage to his own Brooklyn forefather. “A.R.M.E.D.” is shared with The Beatnuts, while the previously released “Solar Flares” finds Jeru spitting super-scientifical madness over a smooth, late night banger from Large Pro.
And then…it’s over. Our hero retires back to his fortress of solitude, perhaps never to seen again, or at least not for many more years. If there is a downside to The Hammer, aside from it’s length, it’s that we don’t get to really meet the mysterious man behind microphone, as Jeru is clearly focused on carrying out his mission. However The Hammer is a concise, yet necessary EP, that suggests there is a future classic, full-length album lurking somewhere in the minds of these two creators. And it’s needed now more than ever. One day…
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