Jeru The Damaja - The Sun Rises In The East (2LP)
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DJ Premier's first album-length production outside of Gang Starr was his best by far. Where Premier's productions hadn't shone underneath the cracking, over-earnest vocals of Guru, with a superior stylist like Jeru these tracks became brilliant musical investigations with odd hooks (often detuned bells, keys, or vibes), perfectly scratched upchoruses, and the grittiest, funkiest Brooklynese beats pounding away in the background. Of course, the star of the show was Jeru, a cocksure young rapper who brought the dozens from the streets to a metaphysical battleground where he did battle with all manner of foe -- the guy around the corner on "D. Original" or an allegorical parade of hip-hop evils on "You Can't Stop the Prophet." The commentary about inner-city plagues arising from spiritual ignorance only continued on "Ain't the Devil Happy," with Jeru preaching knowledge of self as the only rescue from greed and violence. Jeru also courted some controversy with "Da Bichez," at first explaining, "I'm not talkin' 'bout the queens...not the sisters...not the young ladies," but later admitting his thoughts ("most chicks want minks, diamonds, or Benz"). His flow and delivery were natural, his themes were impressive, and he was able to make funky rhymes out of intellectual hyperbole like: "Written on these pages is the ageless, wisdom of the sages/Ignorance is contagious." It lacks a landmark track, but The Sun Rises in the East stands alongside Nas' Illmatic (released the same year, and also boasting the work of Premier) as one of the quintessential East Coast records.