by Wilfred Okiche
There are two distinct but inter related personas at the core of Jesse Jagz’s belated sophomore disc, ‘Jagz nation volume 1: Thy nation come’. There is the rap maestro, rhyming and spitting bars like no one else has been able to commit to this year and there is the ragga afficionado, deluded into thinking he is some form of spiritual leader, an emancipator sent to free his people from their oppression.
But if there is any one oppressed here, it is Jagz himself. After being released from a lenghty but not entirely productive contract with Chocolate City record label, one that had him releasing party starters like ‘Pump it up’ and ‘Wetin dey’. The young man was unsatisfied with the big label limitations placed on his creativity and paid the price for it. While brother M.I fluorished and released 2 successful albums, 2 mixtapes and countless hit singles, Jagga paid the price and had to make do with a solo offering, the underated ‘Jagz of all trades’ as well as some production gigs on albums for M.I, Ice Prince and Brymo.
His rebellion comes full circle on ‘Jagz nation’ and he makes the album that must have been building in him for a while now, one that serves as a kiss-off and a middle finger wave to the suits at Chocolate city.
The rastaferian in him waves the flag from the opening skit where Jagz emerges from a heavy smoke session and likens his rap skills to Jesus Christ turning water into wine. This sets the scene for the other star of the show- weed/ganja/sativa/hashish- to diffuse in effectively. Whatever our man is inhaling seems to be doing his creativity a world of good. ‘Burning bush’ (in memory of Hadiza Aboki) is a winning narration of a young boy’s coming of age and introduction to the substance inhaling world. Almost spiritual, the ragga-tinged song cry opens the album brilliantly and precedes other songs that cross the line between spirituality and otherwordliness.
On the excellent ‘Desire’ he is a soldier without a gun fighting for Babylon and wailing, ‘Jah protect me when the evil man come and me no have a gun’. ‘Sativa’ slows things down and extols the pleasures and greatness of the Sativa cannabis plant. Here, he sings himself hoarse and is complimented smoothly by Lindsey. We’d say this fine recording is a match made in heaven but we are not quite sure heaven would approve. The lead single, ‘Redemption’ mixes oriental sounds with lyrics calling for a revolution and possesses an all-conquering theme while the middling album closer ‘Selassie’ has him pledging allegiance to the movement of the Rastafari and paying homage to the messianic Haile Selassie.
For the rap heads still waiting for their turn, all of this Sativa haze hasn’t made our boy go totally rogue. If anything his rap skills benefit generously and his rhymes are heightened, sharpened to a spiritual finesse. ‘Bed of roses’ is old school 90s rap, reminiscent of the heyday of LL Cool J and has Jaga advising, ‘’don’t beef me that’s what Justin Bieber is for’’
‘Mamacita’ is verbose and over the top and Jagz seems to suffer from ADD as he switches wildly from one topic to the other, intent on showcasing his brilliance. It may invoke feelings of awe but he soon loses the listener at some point. He has his brilliant Yeezus moment a la Kanye West on the tempestous ‘God on the mic’ where he brags almost blasphemously, ‘’Hurled from the sky like a discuss/ a god is fallen from olympus dethroned from high, thrown from the sky/…formed from the remnants of optimus prime.’’ But on ‘Sex and scotch’ he is human again and even sexy, rapping about the joys of well, sex and scotch.
The guest appearances are few and in between. Brymo underwhelms on the lukewarm ‘After party’, 9ice is terrific on the country-crossing ‘Jago ‘ and Wizkid behaves himself and even attempts to sing on the smooth ‘Bad girl’.
Ingenious, exciting and thrilling, ‘Jagz nation’ is a tour de force that suffers occasionally from misbegotten ideas of over-reaching. Jesse Jagz is a brilliant performer- that is obvious from the start – but he tries too hard to display his talent, leaving the listeners out of the loop in the process. There is this feeling that he isn’t talking to you as an equal but considers himself superior which he may well be. Sonically daring, the radio hits aren’t lined up in their numbers and the trips to the club are almost non-existent. Our man prefers instead to contemplate a revolution is not quite prepared to fight till the death.
On ”Thy nation come’, Jesse Jagz isn’t quite God on the mic, but he makes a pretty good impression.
- The writer tweets from @drwill20