Review | J. Crum, ‘Villains’

By Eric N. Boston @EricBoston3 | February 6, 2019

From the heartland to possibly one of the top projects of 2019, J. Crum has officially established himself with ‘Villains’

You may not think of Omaha, NE as a hotbed of hip-hop, but once you hear Crum’s newest release you will understand that good music is not restricted by geographical location.

I get that it has been close to two weeks since this released, but what can I say? Life has been hectic. Even so, I am happy to finally be able to sit down and take this one in. It better live up to the hype that Nate filled my DM with.

Here we go!

Tracks

Villains ft. Big Wade – I am not normally one who roots for a villain. With this opening track, Crum has me roaming in that awkward space. Those who know me know that I love music that sounds different…and boom bap. While this is not boom bap, the synth hits at the beginning drew me in quickly and I wanted to see where the song would go. The flow is very catchy and matches up well with the production. “Boy I be that mad hatter, with them bad manners/ dagnabit/ causing bad panic/ would you save my soul” Okay…I may have slept longer than I should have here. If this project goes up from this initial offering, we have a problem on our hands.

What You Want ft. Eric Heron – Crum is joined on act two by Eric Heron who recently dropped his sophomore album. After “Villains”, my expectations are high for this duo…especially when you add in what Heron brought on his lead single “Vegeta”. So far I am very impressed with the production on this project. The verses here man, the verses. “Bro I’m way too dedicated/ high too elevated/ grind too decorated/ mind too educated/ can’t be replicated/ never really hesitated/ my praise designated” If there is going to be one area for to be critical it would be this. The mix on the hook could be improved. It has a lo-fi quality to it that falls a bit flat.

Underdogs ft. Shiwan – The features keep coming on this one. Here we have another artist that is climbing the ranks in CHH in Shiwan. I love the choir sample in the production. It gives the track an anthemic feel. I can also say this, Omaha should hand Crum a key to the city with the bars he is bringing. Those who think the essence of hip-hop has escaped CHH need to be listening to this. For anthem tracks, this one is up there with “War Cry” from Social Club Misfits for me. I can picture a sea of fans going crazy to this one.

No Way ft. T-Vision“My team don’t know what defeat is, when you see me flexing with them dubs on swole/ now I see these rappers want to be friends, all up in my inbox steady blowing up my phone” We have another solid offering here. T-Vision’s verse started off a little eh for me, but he found the groove about halfway through. Meanwhile, Crum has done one thing to this point and that is – make me a believer.  His lyrical prowess is nasty.

Falling Skies – We get our first feature-less track here. I love the guitar sample that opens the song. I was not expecting the energy that came in with the vocals. There is an angry edge to the words Crum is spitting. The dropout into the melodic hook balances out the track well. “Nowhere to run under these falling skies/ still I rise, still I rise/ storms of life will make you slip and slide/ still I climb, still I climb/ there’s nothing you can do to hold us down!”

Jive Turkeys – Crum’s bars float on top of a piano-driven track while a record crackle brings a slight edge to the sound. When the beat drops in Crum cranks the energy up. Dude is straight flowing here and, as a lover of lyricism, it is right up my lane. The cadence, pattern, and melody all get taken on a ride showing off the versatility the emcee possesses. “I’m laying down the gauntlet/ I’m tired of watching culture vultures turn a profit while the real ones never charted/ little buddy run your pockets/ I want your platform and your wallet and your follows and your market I should stop it” Dang…

Placebos – Crum brings everything down here and, timing wise, it was a great call. Up to this point, the project has been all go so a small break is certainly deserved. We are also greeted with a worship element here which is fantastic! “I’ve found hope/ I’ve found love/ I’ve found joy/ I’ve found peace/ it was found in You Lord, it was found in You Lord” This declaration is repeated as sonically the track builds to a climax. I could see this being a song that gets slept on, but it may end up being one of the jewels of ‘Villains’.

You Are – This song could almost be an extension of “Placebos”. “Can’t pretend I’ve been a menace so many a times/ been a minute since I depended on what my God designed/ been a witness to the benefits you get to live this life/ the hypocrite within was sent to rip it up and severe ties” While this has a similar approach as its predecessor, the overall execution is not pulled off at the same level. Perhaps because it feels so close to the same. Maybe if it had been placed in a different spot on the project it would have been beneficial. It actually seems like it might have been a good option as the final song.

Fly ft. Walt Fortune & Jessica Crum – Okay, so the energy is starting to creep back in now. You can feel it lurking just below the surface. It is that fact that lets me down some when the beat drops in. I was fully prepared to be hit hard and it just wasn’t there. The hook has room for improvement, both is its delivery and mix. Crum’s verse once again is on point and is without a doubt the highlight of the track.

Pitfalls – This is what’s up. That sound that was close to breaking out on “Fly” gets loose on “Pitfalls”. “And we all fall short of the glory of our God/ but it’s not the end of my story oh no/ I’m holding on to you Lord please don’t let me go/ Lord help me, Lord help me escape these pitfalls” What we are seeing with these worship segments is an artist who is opening up and letting his heart cry out. Amazing. The flow style of the verses is on point with the overall feel as they carry a melodic foundation throughout.

Keep Rising ft. Mola-B“Started from the bottom I’m familiar with the modesty/ for a modest fee I’ll wreck your track and give it back no apologies” As important as that first impression is, the same can be said of the final impression. “Keep Rising” is a good outro. Not over the top, but far from subtle either. It does what it should which is having me looking forward to what will come out of Omaha in the future.

Favorite tracks:
1. Villains
2. Pitfalls
3. Placebos
4. Jive Turkeys
5. Underdogs

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