Inevitably going to be seen as a record for the heads, rather than for crossover success.
Louis Pattison 2009-07-30
Juice Aleem first made waves as one third of New Flesh, a trailblazing UK crew who, across three albums of lyrically intelligent rap coloured in with soca, electro and dancehall sounds, did much to give UK hip-hop a distinctly homegrown flavour. Aleem's debut solo album, recorded in collaboration with Gamma producer Blackitude, is, on the surface, similar to the output of New Flesh, but if anything this finds Aleem musing more personally, pondering religion and race, lashing out at lazy rappers, and getting philosophical about his place as a third-generation immigrant in a land where, ''rice and peas is now chips and ketchup''.
Much like Big Dada labelmate Roots Manuva, Aleem has a skill for blending the everyday colloquial with the deep spiritual. The first standout track here is The Fallen (Gen. 15 13), a dense, mystic-tinged number that sees him spitting a personal, remarkably lyrical take on holy scripture over elegiac piano and snaking bass: ''The pre-Babel, antedivulian pre-natal/The language we use right now, it proves fatal''. The Killer's Tears, meanwhile, sounds something like the Wu-Tang Clan by way of Birmingham, all sword swipes and eerie, cinematic organs.
Heavy stuff - but Jerusalaam Come is not without moments of levity: Church Of Rock is a lopsided skank with skittery drums, Aleem winking, ''you scratch my back and I'll stroke the pussycat'' with some lewd intent, while Rock My Hologram, produced by electronica wunderkind Si Begg sees him free-associating over bulging dubstep bass and robotic handclaps.
New Flesh never became a household name because they never figured out how to turn their divergent wordplay into club hits. Truthfully, things haven't changed here: Jerusalaam Come is inevitably going to be seen as a record for the heads, rather than for crossover success. Not that Aleem seems particularly bothered; listen to him on You Shut The ____ Up, swatting wannabe MCs like flies, and conclude he's exactly where he wants to be, on his own plane, putting UK hip-hop clichés to the sword.