Jeru the Damaja The Sun Rises in the East
Though he has released quite a few albums. Jeru the Damaja’s The Sun Rises in the East will always be a certified classic. Not only because the album was produced by DJ Premier who is easily one of the first names to come up whenever mentioning Top 5 Hip Hop producers, not only because of the confidence, delivery and concepts evoked lyrically and sonically. Or even being a member of the Gangstarr Foundation. Moreso of all of these things and more.
The album opens with an excerpt of the beginning of the Fist of the North Star, an anime classic, with Jeru reciting the opening lines of the film in a way that tells the listener that this is the origin story of this sonic journey that you are about to undertake. Let's also keep in mind that this was recorded in the early 90s when anime wasn’t so much a widespread phenomenon as it is these days. Can’t Stop the Prophet was a milestone in using the premise of him being a black superhero and him combatting imagined villains, personified sins and the less favorable of human traits. Listening to the saga of The Prophet vs. Mr. Ignorance was a favorite pastime as it simply had everything I could want in a song at the time. Especially the dopeness of the interludes to keep the story moving along and concise(Ayo do you all remember the fight in the middle when they had him tied to the barber's chair and Premier was scratching over the fight? Chef’s kiss!). The aesthetics of the video in and of itself was always a reason to come back as well.
The imagery of Ain’t the Devil Happy is a thing of perfection. It feels like Jeru becomes an omnipotent deity describing the state of things and it can feel as dystopic as any of the more post-civilization anime. The visual evoked by lines like “Even men of steel rust” is so engulfing that one forgets there is no music video to this song. So solid that you forget that the symbolism of imaginary characters, music, tone and delivery have been woven together to elicit this sensation. Where its a transmission of imagined experiences and emotions purely.
There are so many classics on this album and it’s impossible to give it’s proper due as we haven’t even covered the more lyrical focused tracks like Come Clean, My Mind Spray or Mental Stamina. With Mental Stamina exhibiting quite technical references alongside mythical creatures ”Psychokinetic forces proceed to smash in your cerebellum/Phonetician with more stamina than a Christian/My mind, C3H5N3O9 like nitroglycerine/I bust as Afu-Ra crush, clash with us and meet Cerebus”
There may be quite a few anime enthusiasts and nerds in hip hop now. There are still some that use concepts. But in the end, there are few that can even contest the lyricism, concepts, delivery and imagery that this album brought to the table. We whole-heartedly salute Jeru the Damaja’s The Sun Rises in the East.
RIYL: Classic Hip Hop, Comics and Anime, Gangstarr, Peak DJ Premier