Playing up his backstory with smart rhymes and a showman's flourish.
Louis Pattison 2009-07-30
Most rappers have probably given their resume a slight tweak to confer the right sort of street experience, but if Eslam Jawaad is guilty of embellishing his past, you've just got to hand it to him for his impressive feats of imagination.
Formerly a member of, hmm, the Lebanese Mafia, Jawaad claims he moved to London following the botched sale of an eight million dollar mammoth tusk. There, he hooked up with Cilvaringz, a Dutch affiliate of the Wu-Tang Clan, and following a spate of recording, made contact with Damon Albarn, who invited the rapper to contribute an Arabic rap – which would become the future Mr Whippy – to the debut album from The Good, The Bad And The Queen.
If that sounds an unlikely turn of events, The Mammoth Tusk is proof it's not all hot air. Boasting production credits from The RZA, De La Soul, and Damon Albarn, Jawaad's debut proper is irreverent and fun, playing up his backstory with smart rhymes and a showman's flourish. Pivot Widdit is a Timbaland-tinged club track that finds Jawaad proclaiming himself ''the beat butcher of Beirut city'' over a niggling Arabic-tinged hook and certainly, if anyone's got claim to an Arabic sample here, it's not Timbaland. Meanwhile Beirut and the Albarn-produced Alarm Chord, an eerie ska lope reminiscent of a gloomy Gorillaz, find him rapping in his native tongue.
There is some political engagement here: Criminuhl finds him musing on his identity in a country that mistrusts him because of the colour of his skin - ''Only thing I’m blowing up is charts,'' he declares. Indeed, a little seriousness is welcome, because Jawaad's playfulness sometimes gets the better of him: Star Spangled Banner, which sees him comparing parts of his lover's anatomy to various US states, is not an especially good look. But his wit is sharp as a cutlass on Rewind, a De La Soul-produced cut that chops up the hook from Aaliyah's Try Again as a smart dig at substandard rappers - and going on The Mammoth Tusk, he's certainly earned the right.