You know, there’s not a whole lot of stuff I’m not willing to try. My tastes in music have grown exponentially over the years, and that’s an absolute positive – I’ll never understand people who only listen to one or two types/genres of music. That said, there’s definitely a time where I would not have gotten along with JELEEL!‘s sunny, ethereal, melodic hip-hop.
JELEEL! has made a hell of a name for himself the past few years. Starting with his Angel from Heaven tape in 2019, then an EP called Generation Z in 2020, to now with his debut album REAL RAW!, he’s a wildly energetic dude. His videos are what sold me ultimately. Literally just peep any embedded video here or on the greater internet to see what I mean – they’re a great time. Even without that, though, I do find his wild blend of music to be endearing and fun on its own. Rap, yes, at least its more melodic end, but swaths of r&b, tinges of punk and its attitude, along with a lick of hyperpop’s more eclectic sensibilities, all distilled to a 30-minute runtime across 17 tracks.
Hardly any songs clear the two-minute mark, and one of the longest, “SHOTS!”(at 2:16) is only that long because it has a Denzel Curry feature. Let’s talk about that because y’all know I’m a big Denzel fan. It’s the hardest, darkest song on REAL RAW!, at least relatively speaking; the kind of stuff that fits Denzel’s style. Knocking bass, rough textures, buzzy synths, and a general air of heaviness that calls back to his earlier Imperial/TA13OO years. As always, his flow is impeccable, and the back half of his short verse shows exactly how, and why, he’s such a hot feature-get:
‘Flip the switch and watch his bitch flop
Mini pocket rocket, microscopic, turn the beat hot
Aim it, cock it like I’m Davy Crockett, watch it – pop
Treat it like the Alamo
Sorry, but he had to go‘
For JELEEL!‘s part, he’s a hyper, meaning a doer of hype – a hype-doer. Not a hypeman, that’s different. You’ll often hear his voice with a thin blanket of autotune (again, something I would not have been cool with once upon a time because I was a weird elitist nerd) and he’s talking about the life he lives – ‘Rey Mystеrio (yeah), flippin’ off the stereo (flip it)/Goin’ aerial, they be like, ‘There he go‘. He’s big on positivity, treating his shows like a ‘big party‘, and encouraging people to live in the moment. His music bleeds this mentality. One of my favorites on the album is “DIVE IN!”, and it describes him and his stage presence to a T. The drums make your head nod, his voice is pitched high naturally (no autotune needed!), which makes for some awesome singalong moments, the vibes are just immaculate. Even if each song consists of only a short, fun verse bookended by a sugary hook, they’re hopelessly infectious and palatable.
“TAMALE!” even gets a tad meta as JELEEL! invites what appears to be his alter ego JALEEL! (note the difference) for some assistance. JELEEL! is JELEEL!, the one you know and hopefully love, but JALEEL! is pitched down more toward his natural voice, and he utilizes some Nigerian lyrics (JELEEL!, and therefore JALEEL! I would imagine, has ancestral ties to the country) to make what he refers to as ‘afrorage‘. “FEELS GOOD!” shows another, more tender side to JELEEL! as well, reflecting on his past and what’s important to him as a person:
‘I am the boss, I am the one that looks up
And I give all my thanks up to Jah
Look at the stars, all of these rappers, they dyin’
I’m cryin’, that shit needs to stop
Way in the past, they always laughed
They wasn’t fuckin’ with me
Ni**as, they pointed the gat, right at my dome
That shit was nothin’ to me
I do not fuck with no gang, I’m on my own
I was just stuck in the streets‘
At the end of it all, REAL RAW! is just that, a distillation of real, raw energy from one (okay, two – sorry JALEEL!) dude out of Rhode Island, out to have fun, affect people positively, and be the party starter. I can’t help but smile when I hear his music and see his videos, because it’s very apparent how much of a great time he’s having and how much he wants that to pass on to his fans. He’s got a cool lane lined up mostly to himself as far as I know, and I know I’ll be keeping an eye out for his stuff from here on out. Plus, dude loves all caps so you know that was going to win me over too. Peep JELEEL! and see if he doesn’t affect your mood. I bet he will!