Since hip-hop’s conception, Brooklyn has produced a slew of dope emcees: Masta Ace, Talib Kweli, Mos Def, Joell Ortiz, MC Lyte, Ol’ Dirty Bastard, to arguably three of the greatest emcees of all time, in Big Daddy Kane, Notorious B.I.G. and Jay-Z. Another dope Brooklyn bred emcee who I feel has never got his proper do is the subject of today’s post: Jeru The Damaja.
The first time I heard Jeru The Damaja was in 1992 on the Gang Starr cipher joint “I’m The Man” where he stole the show from his fellow crew members Lil Dap and Guru. After that verse it was only a matter of time before the self-proclaimed Perverted Monk would get a solo deal. He would sign to Payday Records and in 1994 released his debut album The Sun Rises In The East.
The Sun Rises In The East would be completely produced by DJ Premier and only feature one cameo, leaving the rest of the microphone duties to Jeru. The album wasn’t a huge commercial success, but it did garner heaps of praise from the critics and real heads alike, and it’s an album that I’ve held in high regards through the years.
Let’s listen and see if it lives up to all of its nostalgia.
Intro (Life) – TSRITE opens with a mystical feeling instrumental playing in the background while Jeru briefly shares his theory on life. That’s all I got.
D. Original – This was the follow-up single to “Come Clean”. Premo lays a drunken piano loop over a rough drum pattern, as our host uses it to represent all of his dirty rotten scoundrelness. It’s a decent song, but one of my least favorites on the album.
Brooklyn Took It – Jeru uses this one to represent for his Brooklyn borough. I have no idea who or what the hell Premo sampled for this instrumental, but the way he loops it and sprinkles the shit over these dope drums and ill bass line is ridiculous.
Perverted Monks In The House (Skit) – Jeru’s talkin’ his shit on this one. Over a smooth mid-tempo groove he lets the world know that he’s willing, ready and able to destroy any would be challengers who want to bring it. “Any man…any man…no matter who he be…who he be”. This skit sets up the next song.
Mental Stamina – Jeru’s Perverted Monk bredrin, Afu-Ra makes the only cameo appearance on TSRITE, as he teams up with our host and they commence to beat the shit out of the comp with their “scientifical power” and big words: “Feudalistic linguistic, check out the mystic, we’re fantistic, (ya mean fantastic) fuck it, you get your ass kicked, challenge my verbal gymnastic”. Jeru and Afu aren’t Nas and AZ on “Life’s A Bitch”, but they sound solid. Premo’s bananas instrumental is the true star of this one, though. I can’t even describe its dopeness in words. If you’ve never heard it before, go listen to this shit, immediately.
Da Bichez – TSRITE takes the intensity down a few notches from the previous track, as Premo lays out a smooth groove for Jeru to address the gold digging chicks only looking to use and abuse a man for their own personal gain: “Now a queen’s a queen, and a stunt is a stunt, you can tell who’s who by the things they want, most chicks want minks, diamonds a Benz, spend up all your ins, probably fuck your friends, high post attitudes real rude with fat asses, think that the pussy is made out of gold, try to control you by sliding up and down on the wood, they be givin’ up sex for goods”. This is a great well-executed record.
You Can’t Stop The Prophet – This is easily my least favorite song on TSRITE. Jeru shares his tale of being a conscious black super hero named “The Black Prophet” who’s waging war against his arch nemesis Mr. Ignorance and his band of vigilantes: Hatred, Jealously, Envy, Anger, Despair, Animosity and Mr. Ignorance’s wife, Deceit. Jeru’s story line is pretty clever and well laid out, but Premo’s instrumental is boring and makes it hard to follow (or care about). Side note: The Pete Rock remix for this song is fire!
Perverted Monks In Tha House (Theme) – Premo lets the same instrumental from the previous skit, rock (hence the same title), which works out to be a nice little album intermission.
Ain’t The Devil Happy – Premo creates a dark backdrop that’s drenched in seriousness and urgency and serves as the perfect canvas for Jeru to deliver his sermon over (and the Rza vocal loop on the hook is super ill). Jeru calls out the black man for falling into the traps the white man, aka the devil, has laid out for him in America: “Devil got brother killin’ brother, its insane, going out like Abel and Cane, wising up and use your brain, they’ll be no limit to the things that you can gain”. Our host delivers his message as more of a spoken word piece than an actual rap, but it’s still potent. This song has aged very well.
My Mind Spray – Next to James Brown’s catalog, Bob James’ “Nautilus” may be the most sampled song in hip-hop history. I’ve heard some amazing flips of the record (I mean, it’s probably hard to mess up such a dope break, but still), but Premo’s flippage of the loop on this song is completely bananas. Jeru takes his unorthodox flow and tiptoes over the brilliant backdrop, flawlessly. This is definitely one of the strongest songs on TSRITE.
Come Clean – Jeru concludes the third piece of arguably the dopest three-piece combo in the history of hip-hop albums with his classic debut single. Premo lays down some heavy drums placed over a loop of what sounds likes tribal African drums, and our host completely destroys it with his “freaky freaky flow”: “Real, rough and rugged, shine like a gold nugget, every time I pick up the microphone I drug it, unplug it on chumps with the gangster babble, leave your nines at home and bring your skills to the battle”. This is an undeniable hip-hop classic, and Premo’s instrumental is arguably a top ten in hip-hop history.
Jungle Music – Our host uses this one to address how the white man has stolen and abused every form of black created music throughout history: “We went from pyramids to the ghetto, still my sounds make devils tumble like the wall of Jericho, chant my power to devour all the snakes and rats, extra sensory possession to avoid all traps, make a joyful noise unto the Lord, in the sanctuary of your caves white kids press record, as my mystic music spreads from sea to galaxy, its inevitable you can’t stop me, try to carbon copy, but it always comes out sloppy, you can’t out rap me you can’t out rock me”. This is a solid song with a lot of lyrical meat to chew on. I probably enjoyed Jeru’s rhymes more than Premo’s instrumental.
Statik – The final song of the evening finds Jeru talking shit over a Premo instrumental built around a drum beat, a bouncy bass line and a loop of what sound like the static from a record player. Not the strongest song on TSRITE, but its a solid way to wrap things up.
On The Sun Rises In The East Jeru proves to be a formidable emcee with a proper balance of consciousness, righteousness, intellect and enough lyrical Kung-Fu to kick most competition’s ass. As usual, Premo provides a quality batch of instrumentals for our host, sprinkling in a few brilliant moments along the way. My only gripe with TSRITE is the low quality mixing. A tighter mix could have made some elements stand out more, turning good records into great records and great records into phenomenal ones. In a nutshell, The Sun Rises In The East is a borderline classic album in need of a mean remastering.