Jesse Dangerously has been making hip hop for years out of Halifax, contributing to the rich hip hop culture of the city before relocating to Ottawa in 2007. Humble & Brilliant marks his sixth solo album, and features a complex and varied range of music that is smart, funny, and moving. He’s not as well known in the states, but hopefully this album will change that.
Dangerously is not only an emcee. Excepting “I Said No Guests Tim!” which is co-produced by Timbuktu, he produced the entire album himself. He also plays ukulele, glockenspiel, organ, and drums on the album. He considers himself a fan and student of early nineties hip hop, but that is just a starting point for Dangerously.
From the opening track, “file_id.diz,” it’s clear that this is an album that’s going to stand apart. Well-placed vocal samples against a jazzy bassline and menacing keyboards and eerie glockenspiel set the tone as Dangerously spells out his state of mind going into this album. He’s thankful for his fans, frustrated by rappers who don’t respect women and have homophobic lyrics, and wants to be recognized for the quality of music he’s making. These are all points I can get behind. He’s a talented emcee who can switch up between many flows, and while smart and concerned with serious issues, also possesses a great sense of humor. A song like “Halifax Rap Legend,” manages to walk the line between seriously stating his case as a premier emcee who paid his dues and poking fun at the bravado that’s so prevalent in hip hop. It’s not an easy thing to pull off, but he manages.
The album culminates in a trilogy called “Triptych.” Part 1, “Hot Commodity,” addresses the issue of pornography and its effects. “Hot Property” is told from the perspective of a man dealing with emotional and psychological problems. It culminates with “Cold Comfort,” wherein the same narrator makes difficult decisions based on these issues. It’s not perfect, but I appreciate the ambition and the inventive storytelling and diverse musical styles at play here. It certainly forces the listeners to contemplate the impact of his substantial lyrics. I don’t think the issues of mental health or pornography are glorified, but are instead examined fairly. It’s a heck of a way to end an album, I’ll tell you that.
Humble & Brilliant is an album from a well-rounded artist who both challenges and entertains his listeners. He’s pushed the boundaries of the genre, but also delivered some fun, funky rhymes. You don’t come across too many albums that have the ambition of Humble & Brilliant, let alone one that delivers. Kudos.
|Title:||Jesse Dangerously - Humble & Brilliant|