If you’re reading this in the UK you can relax – LP title White Van Music is not a reference to commercial radio stations that play Girls Aloud at speaker-blowing volumes – DJ/Producer Jake One doesn’t roll like that. His homies do however include De La Soul, MF Doom, E40, Nas and Fifty Cent (to name but a few) – in fact – he’s part of the G-Unit production team. ‘What?’ I hear you ask, ‘is this man trying to appeal to both the underground and the mainstream? How does he straddle this divide? Like a colossus – or like a clown with one foot on a roller skate and the other on a banana skin?’ Well, on the evidence of White Van Music, I have to say the answer tends more toward the former.
On this, his debut solo LP, Jake One works with rappers as mainstream as Busta Rhymes and as cult as MF Doom and Slug: as old school as Casual and Posdnuos and as hyphy as Keak Da Sneak. He chamelonically adapts his sound to each MC without attempting to blatantly ape the sound for which each rapper is known. So what is Jake One’s sound? First track I’m Coming pretty much answers that one – fat beats shot through with a heavy dose of seventies soul. A blaxploitation sample about being high on ‘musical dope’ gives way to a chant of ‘Open up I’m coming’ that sounds like a war-party of psycho munchkins before Black Milk and Nottz kick a dope verse. It’s one of the best tracks on the LP, though MOP ‘joint’ Gangsta Boy and Brother Ali vehicle The Truth keep the quality until the first interlude. The D Black and Little Brother cuts which follow aren’t bad but they just aren’t all that distinctive either. Things pick up a bit with the skipping break on the Posdnuos and Slug’s Oh Really and Doom rolls it all abstract on the noirish Trap Door. Freeway gets lively again on How We Ride and is given a suitably upbeat backdrop, Doom gets a second highly satisfactory crack at the whip on Get ‘Er Done and Hiero soldier Casual gets all up in your face with Feelin’ My Shit. As far as lyrical themes go it’s (unsurprisingly) ninety per cent all about how dope each rapper is – though Blueprint obviously felt secure enough about himself to tell a story about the shit that happened when he was seeing some gangsta chick rather than constantly big himself up in Scared. You won’t be at all surprised to learn that the prize for best rhymes goes to the effortless Daniel ‘Doom’ Dumile though.
This isn’t an LP where the quality drops off radically after the first two thirds, in fact there’s nothing wack on here at all – even Busta Rhymes holds back on the cheese and production is warm and full – not unlike my new baby’s nappy – though that stinks and Jake One’s production does not. In fact there’s only two flavours of Jake One in evidence – the not bad and the pretty good. I guess I could’ve done with a little more variety in tempo or style – but there’s variety in MCs instead. It would be cheap to end by punning that everything is pretty much ‘jake’ with White Van Music, but hey – it’s true.
Out now on Rhymesayers
Buy White Van Music: Jake One Presents @ amazon.co.uk