Jake One

    How do you pack Keak Da Sneak, Little Brother, Busta Rhymes and Elzhi onto one album and not make it sound like a jumbled mess? Featuring over 27 artists — major-label and underground alike — Jake One’s debut album White Van Music leaves that question unanswered.

    The album kicks us off on a “music trip” with first track “I’m Coming,” featuring Black Milk and Nottz. With haunting background riffs and layer upon layer of soundboard-stuffs, ambitous producer Jake One forces us through a single-player adventure video game straight from the ’90s. Sparingly scattered throughout the album are rare tracks that do keep Jake One’s ride going strong, particularly those spit on by Freeway, Brother Ali or Little Brother.

    But therein lies the problem of White Van Music — instead of taking us on a potential sans-drug trip, we take a nose-dive into turbulent waves of directionless clamor. The self-proclaimed “perfect beat writer” completely snubs the flow of the more aggressive guest MCs, forcing them to spit over beats that don’t half-match their rawness. Keak Da Sneak snapping over Jake One’s smoothness on “Soil Raps” leaves us with the feeling that ’N Sync has just sung the vocals for Metallica’s “… And Justice for All” — one big, painful trainwreck for all.

    The album’s shining moment is on disc two, which is tied up with enough instrumentals to lace the entire CD. He also announces a contest: the amateur who can make the best original song from one of his tracks wins a studio session with the Seattle producer himself. If you’re an aspiring MC, you should jump on that challenge; ’cause knowing Jake One, he’ll find a place for you on his next album — whether you fit there or not.

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