Jay Smooth’s debut EP feels like it was made out of curious necessity; he stumbles onto new potential over beats ripped from the internet.
It’s worth remembering as artists in the wider scene trend towards unconditional fame that a lot of them started out freestyling over free beats on Youtube. Memories of scribbling in a beat-up notebook as an endless supply of free lofi hiphop hums in the background are no doubt common, a gateway to more legitimate, albeit transactive, creation. The world of free beats represents a form of creative communism; most of the time the complementary nature of any material rests on the users not making any money from it. Nothing is left except the music.
Jay Smooth – who currently sits at a criminal twelve followers on Soundcloud – is a reminder of these starting blocks. The producer credits of his debut EP “Don’t Take Shit Serious” are familiar – Lethalneedle, Whyzoo, Kyrigo, and others – which strangely forces a focus on Smooth’s bars, listeners have to rely on him to bring novelty. And they are solid bars, though delivered with a little beginners hesitation. Smooth mostly comes across as his name would suggest. He launches a humble barrage of similes on the opening track “Silk Durag Intro”, and drops in “consent is key with me baby” on follow-up “Sweet Jones Theme”. There are slips alongside the genuinely slick cadences, but beyond that it’s clear the rapper is doing the crucial work and taking care with his words. “Dipset Bandana” sees Lil Devilman feature, trading visceral bars like “I’m with the smoke like a tarred lung, my momma had four boys – you fucking with the wrong son” as the lead artist dissolves into delay.
The EP’s best moments are the sparks of invention, those that suggest far more ambitious appearances in the future. On “Its 4 the Kidz” Smooth’s less furious inflection is a strength, giving weight to the pitched up mantra “walking to freedom is getting exhausting, exhausting”. He phases between this edited youthful tone and his own, one of the record’s best tactics. “That’s Tuff” finds Smooth keeping the listener’s attention with spiralling rapid bars. In rap tradition, he takes on the role of a radio DJ at the end of “Self Help Books”, shouting out himself and his close collaborators. Self awareness and humour are key to keeping an audience on side at the start of any music journey – Jay Smooth has the advantage of talent as well.
“Don’t Take Shit Serious” is an encouraging look at the roots of an underground rapper. Precision, direction, finesse – these things can come with time, but right now Jay Smooth is clearly finding new potential at every turn. It’s exciting to imagine how they’ll move as ideas gather and connections increase. This is a worthwhile listen in itself, but anticipating what’s next brings the real magic.
Listen to “Don’t Take Shit Serious” here.
– Jamie (1/3 @108MICS)