True to Alternative Press’s observation, “Jel is helping to rewrite the hip-hop rulebook," Jel’s lead single for his forthcoming Soft Money LP provocatively fuses black nationalist rap with indie rock tunefulness. Jel has previously been known and revered amongst those in the know for his mastery of the SP1200 and his labor intensive drum programming, in fact, for Jel and almost Jel alone, let’s just call it drumming. Soft Money, though, bears witness to his much refined melodic sense, honed over the years since his 2002 debut, 10 Seconds (Mush Records), through his work in two bands, the six-piece Subtle (Lex Records) and the acclaimed 13 & God, a pairing of he and Doseone’s Themselves with much-loved German band The Notwist.
The A-side, “WMD,” is shredded by a fiercer-than-ever Wise Intelligent of the Poor Righteous Teachers, one of the more credible crews in hip-hop’s history, along the order of Ultramagnetic MCs or X Clan; when major label interest in Afrocentric rap was drying up in the early-mid 90’s, Wise never embarrassed himself with last ditch stabs at club hits with hired R&B chicks on the hook. No mere exercise in rapper resurrection, “WMD” confirms Jel’s longstanding assertion that Wise Intelligent is of that rare race of rapper whose technical sophistication and lyrical acuity haven’t diminished during his exile from mainstream rap. Jel’s classic-sounding original is supplemented here by Joe Quixx’s raw, Sabbath-scratching remix; Quixx, respected early nineties producer and DJ for Tech and Sway’s Wake Up Show throughout the first half of its lifespan, is another old school cat whose never bothered himself with pop rap expectations.
The flip, “All Around,” features Steffi Bohm from Morr Music’s Ms. John Soda, her fine voice threading Jel“s dense, driving beat work with a variety of styles, from crystalline highs to halting talk. The result is an uncommon blend of restrained prettiness and rap grit, suitable for a man whose heart is divided equally between the clouds and the streets.