Raheem Jamal 

Raheem Jamal
Boombox
Brick Records

On Boombox, Boston rapper and visual artist Raheem Jamal adopts the introspective storytelling and straightforward rhyming techniques pioneered by East Coast MCs like Rakim and Guru. The result is a very personal and genuine effort that’s a throwback to golden-era hip-hop—without ever sounding like a carbon copy of its progenitors.

Cuts like “High Energy,” an autobiographical tale that’s partially about growing up in a crime-ridden neighborhood, and “When? Part 2,” which is a biting, politically tinged diatribe, hammer this style home. On both tracks Jamal infuses his clear-cut narrative with obscure references and animated imagery, paying heed to his forefathers but deftly pushing the genre forward with his own vision.

Musically, Atlanta-based producer Raydar Ellis provides a backbone of breakbeats and melodic phrases mostly lifted from old-school funk, soul and jazz recordings. Like Jamal, Ellis echoes the methods of time-honored producers such as Madlib and DJ Premier in crafting the album’s tone.

Though it might not shake the foundations of hip-hop, Boombox is a revitalized and much-needed update of a classic sound. Rakim and Guru ought to take note. (Ira Sather-Olson)
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