TSL Black Music Month Flow: Jeru the Damaja

    Guru and Jeru the Damaja

    (Guru and Jeru the Damaja, Photo Credit: Pinterest)

    Flashback to 1992 when the smooth whispering raps of Guru from the distinguished group, Gang Starr, was dominating the Hip Hop space.

    Along with producer DJ Premier, the duo released their third album, Daily Operation, which included the summer-like anthem Ex-Girl to the Next Girl. As listeners devoured the album, which only received 3.5 mics from The Source, another artist made his debut next to Guru, beginning a cult-like following that has not yet waned.

    Track 6, called Im The Man, featured Lil Dap from the Group Home and East New Yorks Jeru the Damaja. The DJ Premier production was a classic jazzy riff that morphed into a hard boom bap where a real lyricist could ride the wave like a surfer.

    And Jeru did just that.

    The Dirty Rotten Scoundrel executed with:

    Ill tap ya jaw you probably heard it before

    Step to the bell or mic Ill prove my word is law

    Drug store worth more dope rhyme vendor

    Not partial to peep a cheap ambassador

    Niggas get mad cause they cant score

    Like a Wild West flick they wish to shoot up my door

    But I incite to riot

    Dont even try it

    Whats up chumps so crab kids keep quiet

    Like I said before I tap jaws snatch whores

    Kill suckas and whores because style you said was yours…

    It set up his first single, Come Clean, also produced by DJ Premier, which cemented his hardcore conscious style. True to his pseudonym, Jeru Davis damaged the microphone and did so with a super confident righteousness that made him seem otherworldly.

    The basic beat crafted by DJ Premier allowed you to hear really that Jeru was truly woke, and like the hook looped, uh oh, heads up because we dropping some shit.

    Jeru the Damaja

    (Photo Credit: Pinterest)

    Jeru’s locks were cradled by an extra deep stocking cap and lock top hat, brandishing the Lion of Judah and Ethiopian King, Haile Selassie worship.

    In 1994, Jeru dropped the album, “The Sun Rises in the East, a clear diss to the genre’s West Coast dominance. The tracks scolded those in the east coast music scene who were leading the materialism trend.

    Todays artists need to watch the video, which dispelled every single thing celebrated by artists today. Namely acceptance by the establishment, popular culture labeling and adornment in corporate revelry.

    Jeru was fearless, and his follow-up single You Cant Stop The Prophet aimed squarely at defeating the then dominant sound of Bad Boy and their early blinged out era. The song chronicled how he overcame ignorance, which was taking over Brooklyn, and kidnapped him, trying to cut his locked hair, which like Sampson were the source of his power.

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    (Jeru the Damaja and the Notorious B.I.G., Photo Credit: Pinterest) 

    Of course, they couldnt and as Jeru said poignantly, When the clippers touched his hair they blew the f*** up.

    Jerus second album, The Wrath of the Math, a straight play on 5 Percent Nation of Gods and Earth nomenclature, dropped in 1996. Classic cuts like Me or the Papes created a discourse on queens versus gold diggers with classic lines like, Back in the day, the devil used to rape her. Nowadays he got her chasing the paper. They shed light on the hidden corporate agendas that have now become the standard via reality-show-fame-chasing.

    The second single, Ya Playin Yaself, continued the same industry scolding, but he affirms the existence of rights of passage ritual in his music video.

    Dressed in traditional Chinese clothing in a Buddhist temple in an Asian country, he kneels before fellow artist Afu-Ra, answering negatively to questions such as: Are you a pimp, a hustler?” To wit, he proclaimed, No Im not. When asked in the intro if he is A man and will stand alone as a man has to sometimes,” he exclaimed proudly, Yes I am.

    The final question before the beat entirely drops, a telling one that affirms why Jeru the Damaja is one of the best MCs to ever do it: Are you willing to go out there and save the lives of our children, even if it means losing your own life?

    Jeru the Damaja

    (Photo Credit: Pinterest)

    Jeru answers as you know he would with, Yes I am and we were all the better for his choice. Afu-Ra ended that intro with;” I believe you Jeru, and youre ready.

    Yes but the future, unfortunately, was not.

    Rhett Butler is a Boxing Writer Association of America Journalist, Play-By-Play Commentator, Combat Sports Insider, and Former Mixed Martial Arts and Boxing Promoter. The New York City native honed his skills at various news outlets including but not limited to: TIME Magazine, Money Magazine, CNN's Wolf Blitzer Reports, and more. Rhett hosts the PRITTY Left Hook podcast, a polarizing combat sports insider's take featuring the world's biggest names.