I feel like an asshole. I was supposed to write this review several months ago, but things kept getting in the way. For those of you paying attention, I thank you for your patience.
Mojoe is a duo from San Antonio, Texas (and yes, I do think it's weird that I was sent albums from two separate groups from San Antonio), made up of Easy Lee and Tre. They're rappers with a band, which will automatically draw comparisons with The Roots, but being that Mojoe hails from the South, critics always have to throw a little bit of Outkast into the mix, even though that may simply be due to the fact that Mojoe is made up of two people. They traffic in soulful beats and rhymes that aren't overly concerned with violent acts of aggression or with how much better they are than you at rapping: no, Mojoe specialize in music that you can actually enjoy with your lady, without going the sentimental R&B route.
Mojoe are heavily influenced by soul, blues, and, of all things, Dirty South rap music, which probably makes them an anomaly in San Antonio, where the only artists I've heard of thus far are either sword-swinging lyrical monsters (The Vultures) or lame-ass punks who picked up rapping as a third occupation next to pretending to be a gangsta/drug dealer and attending middle school (everyone else). (A side note to every aspiring artist who reads this blog: if you're interested in seeing it reviewed, shoot me a line at the e-mail address on the top right, and I'll do what I can.)
Dirty Genes is their second album, following classic.ghetto.soul, their 2007 effort that was released under the executive production guidance of Matthew Knowles, Beyonce's father and the head of Music World Entertainment. But hanging out with Jay-Z's father-in-law isn't their only brush with fame: astute readers may recall that, earlier this year, I advertised a House of Blues show in Chicago with Talib Kweli as the headliner: Mojoe was his opening act. They haven't received much buzz in Blogland as of yet, but hopefully that will change very soon.
True fact: this past weekend I actually bought Mojoe's classic.ghetto.soul, so you can read into that as a brief synopsis as to what I thought of Dirty Genes. Or, you can just read the review.
1. DIRTY GENES
Already, Dirty Genes sounds nothing like The Vultures or, for that matter, anything else San Antonio artists have come up with. The beat is chilled out to such a degree that fellow Texas native Scarface could appear on a remix and it would sound completely organic. The rhymes are confident, and even though I didn't really care for the vocals on the hook, this was still pretty nice.
2. IS IT
So far, I'm liking the relaxed deliveries of both Tre and Easy Lee. They take their time to get their points across, which is a nice contrast to the in-your-face antics of most artists today. On here, they dissect what makes some music click with an audience while others fall by the wayside. My only suggestion would be to drop the hook entirely, but you two probably already saw that coming.
3. LET'S CHILL
This just puts me in a good mood. I can actually picture myself driving around at night with this as the soundtrack, leaving all of my responsibilities and concerns at home. It wouldn't be the smartest or most mature thing to do, but everyone needs to get away sometimes.
4. CARRIED AWAY
A word of warning: Mojoe traffics in much more singing than you may be comfortable mixing into your hip hop cocktail. The style suits them well, as their hip hop and R&B amalgamation is pretty relaxing, but for those of you expecting boom-bap with a side of samples, you may need to look elsewhere,
5. MISS PARKER (FRAT RON BASS)
The instrumental suggests a mash-up of Kanye West and Just Blaze, but it's missing the heart that both producers put into their work. The sound is lively enough, but I couldn't get into this one at all.
6. STRANGE REVIVAL (FEAT BAVU BLAKES)
7. MY FAVORITE CUT
Ostensibly, this would be the club song. While I can't imagine any club giving Mojoe the time of day (yet), it isn't bad. It sounds like the product of someone who wants to create a club banger but has no clue as to what requirements are necessary to do so, and that fresh perspective results in a track much more subdued than its brethren, but still as interesting.
8. SILVER LINE
This is what I imagine Black Star songs would sound like if Mos Def stuck to singing while Talib Kweli handled rhyme duty solo. It leans too heavily to singing for my tastes, but this is still quite good.
9. CALL IT FOREVER
The instrumental rocks. "Call It Forever" features the most hip hop-esque beat on Dirty Genes thus far, and the song is that much better for it. Sadly, this is also one of the shortest songs on the album; is it too much to ask for a remix featuring some of the headliners Mojoe have worked with before?
Mojoe jacks Slick Rick's "Hey Young World", a fact which they cop to at the end of the first verse. They also borrowed some inspiration from Nasir Jones: not only did they use the chorus of "The World Is Yours", they also utilize the man's ability to address serious topics without losing the listener's interest. You won't be bumping this shit in your car on repeat, but you will like this song anyway.
11. CHEATIN' (ON HIP HOP)
Finally, someone from within the industry actually agrees with my constant argument against piss-poor production backing hot lyrics: "I'm all about the lyrics, but I like a hard beat/One without the other, it'll feel incomplete". This statement means nothing if the song itself didn't feature hard-hitting production, but you have no need to fear.
12. TRAGIC LOVE SONG (FEAT ROGER BLEVINS JR.)
The instrumental is hard enough to make you feel it may have been put to better use for the previous track, but Mojoe still manages to make it work.
13. EVERY TEAR
Although this reminded me at times if The Dix's The Art of Picking Up Women, but played completely straight faced, I liked this song. Sorry, but that's all I got.
14. SMOKER'S SECTION
You don't bump this shit at a party: you listen to this while driving around by yourself late at night, while a cigarette/cigar/joint dangles from your left hand as you flick the ash from the window. Also, the world you're driving in has all of the color removed from it, kind of like film noir. This track ends Dirty Genes on a high note.
THE LAST WORD: Dirty Genes is not a hip hop album for listeners who look for violent or overtly sexual content, nor is it for fans of the "artists" who populate the Billboard charts. As much as I hate this term (since I believe that music should be capable of transcending generations), Mojoe presents us with "grown folks music", and not just because of their reliance on singing. Easy Lee and Tre present a mature outlook on life while still reflecting on what makes it worth living in the first place. Dirty Genes also presents listeners with a consistent smooth sound that comes across as nothing like you would imagine from a city famous for The Alamo and who some consider the most boring NBA team ever. With the exception of a couple of tracks, Dirty Genes is pretty entertaining, so you should give it a shot: it may relax you more than that bunk weed you're smoking.
Sorry, no freebies this time around, but you can support Mojoe by purchasing Dirty Genes from iTunes today.