|When Public Enemy unleashed their brand of political rap aimed at exposing social and economic inequalities in the late '80s/early '90s, they were given revolutionary stature and their albums remain undisputed hip-hop classics. Whether you believe things are better or worse now, it's been hard to find a consistent successor to their legacy outside KRS-One and his "edutainment" platform. In 2005, you can count on one hand the number of MCs using their genre as a vehicle to advance their ideas on the socioeconomic conditions of the poorest class. Enter Bigg Jus.|
The former member of legendary underground hip-hop group Company Flow returns with a new producer, but similar state of mind, on Poor People's Day, a jarring album that will earn the oft-used "challenging" label critics love. While eight years removed, it's not unfair to call this a continuation of the ideas laid down in his former group's incendiary debut Funcrusher Plus. Left-wing, anti-corporate politics still dominate Jus's lyrical content and are expressed through multisyllabic, spoken-word flow. Smartly, Jus avoids conspiratorial leanings that may dilute the message of similar MCs, preferring to focus on actual problems.
In one of the most complementary pairings in recent years, DJ Gman lays down fractured, arrhythmic beats that skillfully supplement Jus's vision of the chaos and disorder he expresses lyrically. While certain tracks mirror Jus's former group, (check the dark, futuristic synths and heavy drums on "Halogen Lanterns"), Gman crafts beats that will appeal to the Co Flow heads without ripping them off wholesale.
Still, this is far from accessible music. While Public Enemy and KRS-One couched their philosophies in music that allowed for as much head-nodding as thinking, Jus allows no such luxury. The title track does end with smooth R&B singers but, for the most part, choruses are minimal to non-existent and most tracks lean toward Ras Kass's "Nature of the Threat" than "Shut Em Down." As a tribute to the oppressed and disenfranchised, Poor People's Day succeeds in bringing to light the myriad problems they face the world over. Admirable, yes, but you wish Jus would supply half as many proposed solutions as problems. Still, it's refreshing to know that when political MCs of the past pass the mic, it won't drop to the floor. - Urb