Jneiro Jarel, a.k.a. Dr. Who Dat, has the potential to replace Jay Dee in the hearts of hip-hop fans. He's that good.
His breakthrough effort, 2005's Three-Piece Puzzle, was a masterful combination of warm electronic soundscapes, world-music stylings, and underground hip-hop rhythms and flows. Similar to Dilla, Jarel never truly shines on the mike, but his lyrics are solid enough to justifiably complement his instrumentals. That doesn't matter here, on this year's Beat Journey, because his Lex debut is almost entirely instrumental, a beat catalogue of where Jarel is at this moment.
The best songs, like "B-Boy Portrait in Spain," never seem to settle, always jittery and multi-layered. Jarel uses the full toolbox at his disposal: fading channels, cutting up samples, adding static or pitch adjustment here and there. "Deep Blaque" is peaceful, yet restless, and the warm tones are reminiscent of Nicolay's best work. "On the Doelow" sounds like a Quasimoto track minus Madlib's silly voice, but even after name-checking all of these producers, Jarel maintains his own identity.
However, aside from the swirling soul on the excellent "Asap (Flash)" and "Thumpa," which starts out as almost a (great) 50 Cent instrumental, Beat Journey can be a little uniform in tone. The record lulls the listener into a kind of trance, which can be a good or bad thing, depending on what you are looking to get out of hip-hop. Viewed in parts, there is some brilliant music here, and certain individual tracks are some of the best beats of the year ("Bahia Blues," in particular, is stunning). But for a producer this talented, with all kinds of potential, it's easy to hope for more his next time out.
"B-Boy Portrait in Spain" MP3