Jneiro Jarel is a man of many musical faces, having previously released material under the guises of Jneiro and Dr Who Dat and, most recently, as the significant creative force in Shape Of Broad Minds. It was with the latter act that the producer/rapper collaborated with Khujo Goodie of Atlanta crew Goodie Mob, and on discovering the pair had chanced upon the kind of chemistry that no label can fund into reality they set about crafting a long-player. The result: the debut album from Willie Isz.
‘Georgiavania’ is a rewarding listen, an album that strikes on first impression but only reveals its true depth once the flurry of cursory investigations have passed. Conceptually strong, with the duo exploring the fantasy fifty-first state of Georgiavania, its longevity emerges only once a focus has been established – it’s easy to drift away from its rapidly delivered rhymes and playful beats, simply because they’re like little else in hip-hop right now, playing up to both retro funk rhythms and keeping ears tuned to a future of boundless experimentation.
But persevere, getting through that muddling sensation of indifference that unexpectedly settles on the third half-awake listen, and suddenly ‘Georgiavania’ comes alive. Its eclectic tendencies, which threatened to alienate, now seem fascinating; and the interplay between the central protagonists is forever beguiling, vocal lines entwined like a mythical double helix holding the secrets of rap locked tight. The smoothness showcased is frightening for a first album, evidently the end product of a great deal of studio bonding between Jarel and Khujo – such is the accomplished feel of the majority of these tracks that they comprise a whole comparable with the mighty ‘Stankonia’, OutKast’s celebrated fourth LP.
The first track to illuminate your ear drums, fireworks popping brilliantly around your cranium, is ‘Blast Off’ – punchy of percussion and dynamic of rhymes, it’s an introductory track for our new champions of southern rap, rolling with a celebratory air but never bobbling off into braggadocio territory. It’s a vibe that continues to dominate: Willie Isz realise they’re dang good at what they do, and feel little need to wax lyrical about it, preferring instead to let their beats ‘n’ pieces to do the talking. And my, once a dialogue is established it’s the kind of one-to-one (two-on-one, I suppose) you’re reluctant to wrap up.
‘Loner’ effectively articulates the duo’s side-stepping of crowd-chasing compositional traits, painting things black and white before crashing the party with neon spray paint and silly string; ‘I Didn’t Mean To…’ is the most silken, soul-laden track you’ll hear this summer, its looped vocal effect akin to a Flake advert from 2049 – assuming people are still chomping on chocolate in fifty years’ time – and the vocals successfully conveying a sense of sorrow for doing wrong by a (previously) loved one: “I got a new girl, but I really didn’t want to let you down”. ‘Autopilot’ writhes and flexes with a wonderful fluidity, and vocally represents the album’s most aggressive track in terms of in-your-face tone, while ‘The Grussle’ is a bizarre melding of a traditional Irish jig and hustle-raps both slurred and spat – that it works is testament to the abilities of the artists involved.
When the pace drops off for too long – as on ‘Prepare Fo It (Spiritual Gladiators)’ – Willie Isz lose their grip on proceedings and the listener can easily wander; but soon enough attentions snap back into the upright position as another explosion of colourful compositional twists and hyper-kinetic lyrical flows hits home with all the power of a peculiarly pleasurable punch in the gut. As debuts go this is up there with the year’s best so far, regardless of genre, and within its field it’s sure to be celebrated as one of 2009’s most attractive artistic achievements in six months’ time.