(Guru and Jeru the Damaja, Photo Credit: Pinterest)
Flashback to 1992 when the smooth whispering raps of Guru from the distinguished group, Gang Starr, was dominating the Hip Hop space.
Along with producer DJ Premier, the duo released their third album, ‘Daily Operation’, which included the summer-like anthem “Ex-Girl to the Next Girl.” As listeners devoured the album, which only received 3.5 mics from The Source, another artist made his debut next to Guru, beginning a cult-like following that has not yet waned.
Track 6, called “I’m The Man”, featured Lil’ Dap from the Group Home and East New York’s Jeru the Damaja. The DJ Premier production was a classic jazzy riff that morphed into a hard boom bap where a real lyricist could ride the wave like a surfer.
And Jeru did just that.
The Dirty Rotten Scoundrel executed with:
I’ll tap ya jaw you probably heard it before
Step to the bell or mic I’ll prove my word is law
Drug store worth more dope rhyme vendor
Not partial to peep a cheap ambassador
Niggas get mad ‘cause they can’t score
Like a Wild West flick they wish to shoot up my door
But I incite to riot
Don’t even try it
What’s up chumps so crab kids keep quiet
Like I said before I tap jaws snatch whores
Kill suckas and whores because style you said was yours...
It set up his first single, “Come Clean,” also produced by DJ Premier, which cemented his hardcore conscious style. True to his pseudonym, Jeru Davis damaged the microphone and did so with a super confident righteousness that made him seem otherworldly.
The basic beat crafted by DJ Premier allowed you to hear really that Jeru was truly “woke”, and like the hook looped, “uh oh, heads up because we dropping some shit.”
(Photo Credit: Pinterest)
Jeru's locks were cradled by an extra deep stocking cap and lock top hat, brandishing the Lion of Judah and Ethiopian King, Haile Selassie worship.
In 1994, Jeru dropped the album, "The Sun Rises in the East”, a clear diss to the genre's West Coast dominance. The tracks scolded those in the east coast music scene who were leading the materialism trend.
Today’s artists need to watch the video, which dispelled every single thing celebrated by artists today. Namely acceptance by the establishment, popular culture labeling and adornment in corporate revelry.
Jeru was fearless, and his follow-up single “You Can’t Stop The Prophet” aimed squarely at defeating the then dominant sound of Bad Boy and their early blinged out era. The song chronicled how he overcame ignorance, which was taking over Brooklyn, and kidnapped him, trying to cut his locked hair, which like Sampson were the source of his power.
(Jeru the Damaja and the Notorious B.I.G., Photo Credit: Pinterest)
Of course, they couldn’t and as Jeru said poignantly, “When the clippers touched his hair they blew the f*** up.”
Jeru’s second album, “The Wrath of the Math,” a straight play on 5 Percent Nation of Gods and Earth nomenclature, dropped in 1996. Classic cuts like “Me or the Papes” created a discourse on queens versus gold diggers with classic lines like, “Back in the day, the devil used to rape her. Nowadays he got her chasing the paper.” They shed light on the hidden corporate agendas that have now become the standard via reality-show-fame-chasing.
The second single, “Ya Playin’ Yaself”, continued the same industry scolding, but he affirms the existence of rights of passage ritual in his music video.
Dressed in traditional Chinese clothing in a Buddhist temple in an Asian country, he kneels before fellow artist Afu-Ra, answering negatively to questions such as: “Are you a pimp, a hustler?" To wit, he proclaimed, “No I’m not.” When asked in the intro if he is “A man and will stand alone as a man has to sometimes," he exclaimed proudly, “Yes I am.”
The final question before the beat entirely drops, a telling one that affirms why Jeru the Damaja is one of the best MC’s to ever do it: “Are you willing to go out there and save the lives of our children, even if it means losing your own life?”
(Photo Credit: Pinterest)
Jeru answers as you know he would with, “Yes I am” and we were all the better for his choice. Afu-Ra ended that intro with;" I believe you Jeru, and you’re ready.”
Yes but the future, unfortunately, was not.