Born and raised in Raleigh, North Carolina, Thomas “Book T” Jones is a married father of two children. The well-educated artist who earned a Bachelor’s Degree from UNC-Pembroke and a Master’s Degree from Full Sail University, has been putting out mixtapes and singles since 2011, and most recently released a studio album with his friend ThirdNasty entitled Hookman & The Ripper. A singer, songwriter, MC, producer, and manager of his own destiny, Book T’s new album “Exit 300” is his first solo studio project.
The Hookman or Mr. Highly Educated as he is known to many of his fans and peers comes out of the box blazing on his latest album, with the track “Witness My Legacy” . Book T made a major splash with last year’s “KickBack Tracks” which proved to be both unusual and enlightening at the same time. It was clear from the jump that he was no ordinary artist. Now on “Exit 300” we get a strong mix of bravado and humility. Full of soaring anthems and dark, moody production, the songs slowly build before erupting into meticulously layered rhyme-infused tracks sewn together by passionate raps.
Throughout the album, Book T routinely flexes his penchant for musicality — it’s less about technology-driven beats and more about groove, intricate melodies and drum patterns that allow Book T’s vocals to take center stage. The songs show the rapper’s ability to constantly keep his listeners guessing as he flips from more lusciously-flavored production to simplistic song structures.
This pattern of flip-flopping from high octane tracks like “PopNTheHood” to the quieter “This Can’t Be Life” defines the record. The stark contrast between each song keeps this ambitious effort exciting and unpredictable. The album’s middle set of songs, “Till I Fill up (feat. QuizzieBaby)”, “This Can’t Be Life” and “I Know It’s Hard” crafts a sonically-rich, thematically-sound, and thoroughly enjoyable ternary.
The title track “Exit 300”, easily serves as the project’s defining moment and essentially sums up the album’s thesis. It’s like the listener is stumbling along the path to enlightenment, track by track, while moving in many directions along the way.
One of the project’s immediate strengths is that it can be enjoyed on various levels. It can be assimilated only from the surface, taking in the beats and flow. Or it can be unraveled to its depths and complexities. A lot of the otherworldly elements ad sounds might make it difficult for some of his peers to grasp, especially if you don’t have the time to properly digest it.
“Exit 300” requires patience, a thorough listen and acute attention to detail otherwise it’s just going to sound like strange pontifications on existentialism. The album, most importantly, expands Book T’s artistry to show he’s more than a lyrical dynamo. He is always focused, and shows a willingness to challenge himself in the studio beyond penning meticulous bars.
This is true of tracks like “Ain’t No Sunshine, Ain’t No Lovin” and “Back to North Cack (feat. 2 Fold)” which shine with the same eclectic, alternative brilliance once displayed by Andre 3000 and the Outkast. The key pillars to creating an outstanding album are maintaining a balance between cohesion and variation, minimal filler, and a powerful statement by the artist. All things achieved with ease by Book T here.