Thursday, March 31, 2016

Blu & Ray West - Crenshaw Jezebel Review



In 2007 many referred to Blu, following his sensational debut Below The Heavens, as the saving grace of underground Hip-Hop. He was ripe with street poetry, charisma, and a knack for rapping complexities. What they didn't know at the time was the thing holding him together was Exile, his sole producer on the album, for the string of releases that ensued saw Blu struggle with mixing, an identity, and commitment. It's no surprise that his next critically-acclaimed work was the only one that saw Exile back in the saddle, with 2011's Give Me My Flowers While I Can Smell Them. Between then, and since, he's ran laps in search of something worthwhile, resulting in a discography that's a confusing and lopsided mess, with only a few releases that correctly identify as an official LP or EP. The rest lingers in some unknown place, so while Blu has never vanished from the Hip-Hop game, many listeners seem to think so. Coming hot on the heels of his 2015 collaboration album Bad Neighbor with Madlib and MED, a work that suffered from talent imbalance, Crenshaw Jezebel, a small 19-minute EP, sees him continue his retreat into the role of passed around companion artist.

The reason for this is limited but significant. While Crenshaw Jezebel is labeled as a 'Blu & Ray West' project, fellow rappers AG and Dave Dar appear as equals on the album's cover. Peculiar given the latter appears on two of the nine tracks, the former only on one. Blu gets five while Ray West, handling the Madlib-inspired, sample-plucking, vocal-laced production, covers all nine. In other words, as per standard Blu tradition, these 19 minutes are inconsistently divided. It doesn't feel like an EP, so much as a poorly devised mix CD of ideas with completed works scattered throughout. Opener 'Black Coffee' is used as a massive red herring, being one of Blu's better works since the turn of the decade, with a mellow, yet mischievous beat that rides behind Blu's sexual exploits. Done so well that nothing after can compare. In fact, for the rest of the EP the focus seems to shift towards Ray West's production, which is, at times, endearing, at others, irritating.

That seems par for the course of chipmunk vocal samples, the looping measures taken only aims to heighten extremities. The instrumental 'Gave Her Love Away' is the best beat here, simple and melodic, nothing more essential to counteract the pleasures, while 'Sunday Cartoons' succeeds in transporting one to better times, intricate sampling made to sound like your favorite 80's theme song. It's unfortunate that for the remaining rapping tracks, none fair well in terms of beats. 'Midnight Blues' and 'Micadelic Furs' both take a stab at slower, darker rhythms, losing originality in the process as the life coming from the samples largely dissipates here. And it might be personal distaste but the production for 'Let Me' sounds like the worst to come out of someone's day of crate-digging, piercing and sloppily done, the track is only partially held together by Blu's quality verse. All in all, Crenshaw Jezebel doesn't aim to sway opinion as much as conform to someone's ongoing conflicts. It isn't easily ingested, a staggering problem given its short length, and the purpose is left clearly undefined. Renamed the 'Black Coffee EP' with eight extra bonus tracks would've made more sense, as it seems obvious that song is what spurred the idea as a whole, without much depth to back it up. 

2 comments:

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    1. Ain't nothing wrong with that! It's always better to enjoy things.

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