We’re nearly finished with our 12 Days of Early 90’s Hip Hop and on Day 11, we gaze into the horizon as The Sun Rises In The East in 1994…
The Sun Rises in The East – Jeru The Damaja (1994)
Produced by DJ Premier
This is Premier’s first solo-produced LP outside of Gang Starr. It’s a slight curveball choice, in that it received some deep and legitimate criticism after release and had much less commercial impact than other choices I might have made. It is, however a wonderfully unique sounding record, and whichever way you look at it, remains (possibly) some of Premier’s and (definitely) Jeru’s greatest work.
I have tried to distance myself from making too many judgements about misogyny on some of these records. This isn’t because I’m an apologist for misogyny in rap. No way. But the question of the way in which women are constructed in Hip Hop is a complex one which is entrenched deeply in other issues such as race and economics. What I’m saying is this: one day rap musicians and music critics will appreciate the hideous regressive nature of the way women are painted in rap. No doubt about it. It’s disgusting and inexcusable. There is no question that this album would have been immeasurably improved without misogyny. It is not a great album because it is offensively sexist; rather it’s a good album (musically speaking) in spite of it. Make no bones about it; all music is entrenched in patriarchy though. The Rolling Stones, Beatles… any of those white “legendary” acts who speak of sexuality and women in such a way as to be implicitly sexist, are still sexist. And just because they may not refer to women as bitches, the ideology entrenched in those records is such that they may as well.
Let’s not forget that rap music – at its best – has the power to be revolutionary in that a socially oppressed group makes it and offends hegemony. It is imperfect, but most oppressed groups make internal mistakes and have internal conflicts – feminists disagree, the western working classes have yet to revolt – it’s frustrating and debilitating. So when the Fugees had a musical pop at Jeru as a consequence of the lyrical content of this album (calling him a fake prophet etc), it was absolutely legitimate and right, and not disrespecting women in rap is something that would only improve the genre.
The production values on this album sound like very little else, which is a statement I seem to have replicated a lot during this review list, but it just so happens this period was an extremely fertile time and created some really unique sounding music. Premier was able to shine in a way that had previously evaded him with Guru who had a different sort of performance vibe. Jeru was extremely commanding and clear on this record and an excellent storyteller. The theme of a lot of Hip Hop MC’s during the early 90’s was the problems within the music industry and the dangers of rap. This theme prevails today, with artists continuing to take pot-shots at people they describe as “fakers” and proclaiming a desire only to make money. Come Clean was the first single off the album and hearing it excited me. Not least because it sampled Onyx’s Throw Ya Gunz (a single off another album on this list). But there are no other bad tracks on the record, except of course from the previously discussed Da Bitchez, which renders this album – despite it’s technical beauty – a four instead of a five star joint.
Taking aside themes and purely on a technical level – with odd sounding samples, fat funky beats and an incredibly captivating and competent young rapper this album is one that will always be close to my heart. With samples from Michael Jackson, Onyx and The Wu, in terms of Hip Hop technique – this album is almost perfect.
See what you think.