B-Smack is the kind of rapper that will inspire very strong opinions. He’s clearly an ardent student of the craft, the kind of hip-hop head inspired by the likes of Eminem, Logic, J.Cole, and Kendrick Lamar. The kind who believes that there’s such a thing as “real” hip-hop. In other words, he’s everything the old heads wanted hip-hop to inspire in the modern day. He has already dropped two full-length projects – “PATIENT” and “JAM”, proving that he is good rapper and a deft, if not inspiring, lyricist. “PATIENT” fully illuminated B-Smack’s potential and ambition. It was close to perfect, and it produced plenty of goodness to warrant praise. Now on “JAM”, the Maryland artist, produces another heavily refined, workman-like album with lofty ambitions, and an even bigger payoff.
What’s interesting about “JAM” is that it is, for all intents and purposes, a concept album, meant to detail the many inner conflicts B-Smack’s has faced. What’s more is that the lyrics on this album often get at a depth and immediacy that B-Smack’s prior project assumed he would reach.
Contrary to what most real hip-hoppers believe, just saying a bunch of innocuous things doesn’t make you a deep or lyrically advanced or important rapper. You need to internalize your feelings, and grasp the interplay words, tone and timbre. On this album B-Smack truly inhabits the roles in each track.
Given how rare a commodity maturity so often proves in the world of hip hop, B-Smack is to be commended for coming so far so quickly. On this album he has doubled down on his appetite for reflection over extravagance. The more you delve into the album, the more you realize it is story focused and like every story, there’s progression, between one experience and the next.
B-Smack opens the album with “Homesick”, which takes a look at the isolation and loneliness felt by a college student. The song, explained B-Smack, is meant to be an apology to his mom following a moment self-examination concerning previous actions he had regretted doing.
At 18 tracks, this featureless album is surprisingly to the point, disciplined, and low on glitter and gleam. It’s a throwback to classics like Nas’ Illmatic, where everything is in service of the rhymes and the storytelling. This is an album about B-Smack, an album where he’s the center, the star, the whole point. But it could so easily be the stories and experiences of each one of us.
Like “Demons”, which asks the all too familiar question: “Look into that mirror and tell me who you see.” But B-Smack is capable of affronting universal and disputable themes, as he digs deep in “Fool”, questioning religion. “No matter how edgy it may seem,” says B-Smack, “it is my honest opinion about a controversial topic.”
One’s interest in “JAM” may hinge on how interesting one finds his stories, and on how much one appreciates his pure technique. Of course, it’s entirely possible to admire the album and its terrific beats, without being fully persuaded by B-Smack’s thoughts or opinions.
All throughout though, the emphasis seems to favor storytelling and literalism over anything that’s simply verbally dexterous. It’s called substance over style. Low on frills and rich with introspection, the stories unfold like an old journal previously unread.
B-Smack also takes the time to dedicate 3 tracks – “Finnish”, “3Six5” and “Miracle” – to the love of his love, describing the impact she has had in making him the man he is. There are also a couple of cuts like “Ego” and “Poetic” meant to showcase the artist’s stunning skillset, from his flow to his rhyming and lyrical abilities.
If you’re a fan of artists that spill their guts and show emotion in their tracks, you’ve come to the right place. But what this album does more than anything else is make a case for B-Smack’s skill and his drive, both of which will yet serve him well in the creation of a true classic.