Artist: Jeru The DamajaTitle: Divine DesignRating: 3 1/2 StarsReviewed by: Damainion Ewell
When the name Jeru The Damaja comes to mind, you usually think of the super-conscious lyricist, taking shots at pimps, players, hustlers and materialistic women. From humble beginnings as an aspiring Brooklyn, N.Y. rapper to becoming an internationally known talent, he has refused to change his formula. As a member (and eventual ex-member) of one of Hip-Hops all-time greatest collectives, The Gang Starr Foundation, to his 1994 debut, The Sun Rises In The East, to his latest opus, Divine Design, Jeru has dared to be different and not get caught up in the hype that Hip-Hop can drown an artist in. The self-proclaimed Dirty Rotten Scoundrel has returned to reclaim his place amongst Hip-Hop's most lyrically fit, and has a track record to validate his place.
Divine Design picks up the broken pieces that his previous album, Heroz4hire, left laying in the dirt. His debut single, "War," is a classic "stand up and be counted" track, letting his opinions be known about R. Kelly's current legal troubles and Ja Rule's supposed jacking of his name. I cant trip, thats just a part of the game/like Ja Rule biting my name/like MJ going up in flames/like chickens sucking dick for fame/as things change I remain the same, Jeru proclaims, which further refutes the fact that hes going anywhere, despite venturing out on his own.
On arguably the hottest single on the entire album, True Skillz, the Jeru of old makes a triumphant return, spitting venomous lyrics to a DJ Premier-like track: Throwing bolos at amateurs and pros/pastime converting hoes, putting MCs in choke holds/before it slips my mind shout out to all my bros/you couldnt count the mics I ripped on all your fingers and toes. Other tracks such as Praise Da Lord, The Queens (the B-side to his 1994 Da Bichez single), and Rasta Powers (the latest installation of his classic Prophet skits) prove that Jeru is still ahead of his time in the fine art of lyricism.
When most thought that Jeru would wind up being another washed up MC without DJ Premier's sphere of influence, he has set his sights on proving his critics wrong; Divine Design is a step in the right direction. Rookie producers Sabor and Edd Dantez have complete control behind the boards, although the beats are not quite as polished Premiers once offered. Jeru frequently outshines the music, which is apparent on tracks Dirty, and Murda 1. The beats are basic, flat, and do nothing to encompass Jerus gritty, yet versatile style of lyricism.
Jeru The Damaja is in a constant battle to continuously show and prove that he's one of the best at what he does. Although a step-up from his previous album, he still suffers from a huge case of Canibus Syndrome, dope lyrics overshadowed by a lack of complimentary beats. As Jeru pushes forward, lets hope that he finds the cure for this crippling disease and begins to walk in the upright position that the Hip-Hop community is accustomed to seeing him in.