Disclaimer: All views presented in this Album Review are those of the reviewer and not of DJ Wade-O
Introductions can be very tricky. Mainly because of the pressure that you can put on yourself. You never know how people will receive you or your introduction. Not to mention the fact that it’s your first impression, and we all know how important first impressions are. For an artist, this is even trickier, because you can be boxed in based on how you introduce yourself. There have been so many artists that have had poor first impressions or have been categorized based on their first impression. When this happens, artists spend so much time trying to fight this or change it, thus it rarely ever happens. On the flip side, if an artist makes a great first impression then this can propel an artist to a great career.
This is where we find Jackie Hill-Perry. A relative unknown in CHH. She has been most noted for her work as a spoken word artist with Passion 4 Christ Movement (P4CM), but even that didn’t really put her on the radar of CHH fans. Even when she signed to Humble Beast Records earlier this year no one really knew what to expect, (and it came as a bit of a surprise). Since the signing, she has basically murdered every feature she’s been on, and she’s done so with some of the best in the genre (Swoope & Beleaf). Even still, we don’t know much about the type of artist that Jackie Hill-Perry is.
She recently dropped her debut album The Art of Joy Tuesday, November 4th. This record will give us a clear picture of what Jackie Hill-Perry looks like as a hip-hop artist; this is her introduction. The question now becomes, is this a good introduction?
Based on her affiliation with Humble Beast and the aforementioned features, we could deduce that Jackie is a strong lyricist. There was nothing to prepare us for her lyrical performance on The Art of Joy, because it was nothing short of phenomenal. She used and mixed words with an ease and fluency that could make even the best wordsmith envious. She gives fans a little taste on “The Problem” (the first video release from the album). This track (which is a hidden track that follows “The Solution”) is a 2-minute display of world-class lyricism. That track, however, was only a small glimpse into what she had in store. Throughout the entirety of the record Jackie serves up some of the best lyricism in CHH.
Much like her Humble Beast brethren, Jackie’s brand of lyricism is more of the backpack, intellectual deep lyricism. It’s beautiful wordplay and clever schemes. It’s double entendres, similes, metaphors and all the skills that would make a language arts teacher proud. Her style is great, if that’s your thing. This is not necessarily a record you can just throw on for casual listening. The Art of Joy is heavy, deep and takes time to process what’s being said, and just how great it is. A perfect example would be the Eshon Burgundy assisted “The Solution.” Humble Beast fans will love this song and play it multiple times, but I’m not totally sure it will reach all hip-hop fans. That is the overall feel of the entire record. That however is not an indictment of the record or her lyricism because it is truly awe-inspiring. Her work on “Ode to Lauryn” is a classic track that should be studied for its lyricism (more specifically her wordplay and storytelling). Jackie also had lyrical masterpieces such as “Dead Preacher” and “Educated Fool.”
Whether or not you are a fan of the brand of lyricism Jackie has, The Art of Joy is truly a lyrical masterpiece that should go down as some of the best lyricism put together on an album. This is a true lyrical genius at work and that made this album beautiful to listen to.
Another element to a great album is production. Usually the two go hand in hand. If you want to have a great album, you must have production and lyricism, mixed in with a few other things. The Art of Joy is no different, but with the level of lyricism being so high it would be nearly impossible to try and match the production to that. On its own the production doesn’t match the high quality of lyricism, but something much more clever was happening musically on this record. The production seemed to merely be there to support Jackie and the message she was trying to convey. In and of itself production is an art form, but there are times when the production is better suited as a supporting cast member. That’s how it was used on The Art of Joy, and it was used beautifully.
The production on The Art of Joy is about what you would expect from a Humble Beast artist and a backpack lyricist; which is a boom bap sound. This is not to say that the production wasn’t good because it was really good. It supported Jackie and made the record easier to consume and enjoyable to listen to. There weren’t any tracks that you would point to, as “genre shaking production” but the production behind “The Solution” was awesome. And the smooth production lended to “Better” was good but overall, the production highlighted Jackie and the message she was getting across. Jackie used this beautifully to help craft a fantastic record.
As an introduction, or a debut album, The Art of Joy is a phenomenal record. Outside of that, as just a piece of art, it really is a masterpiece. Though Jackie needs to work on her flow, by switching it up more, with delivery and tone, she showed on this record what type of an artist she is. She is a lyrical giant in this genre. She fits right into the mold that Humble Beast has created. She creates uplifting, intelligent, thought-provoking, inspirational hip-hop. She crafts hip-hop that is beautifully woven with scripture and brings the listener closer to God.
Jackie challenges, inspires and motivates listeners. She makes hip-hop the way it is supposed to be made. That is exactly what The Art of Joy is. It is hip-hop in its purest form. It is a beautiful snapshot of great and classic hip-hop. This record will leave listeners satisfied and awe-inspired. Jackie Hill-Perry created one of the best albums Christian Hip-Hop has heard in a long time. And the best part is this is that it’s her debut. CHH can only hope that she continues to create fantastic music like this for a long time.