Jel
Soft Money
2006
C+



jeffrey “Jel” Logan ends his album of solemn critiques of American materialism and the Bush administration with a naked cliché. “Chipmunk Technique” begins with an Aaron Neville-like serenader who sings, “Sample my words / Speed it up now.” Jel follows orders, cranking up the voice to 78 rpm on the turntable. But before he completely joins the legions of DJs, producers, and millionaires who exploited the Alvin effect, in walks a rotgut-blues number with beats that track mud into the bar and a sampled rapper lets you know that “You can’t take money with ‘ya when ‘ya die.” At first I didn’t know whether to chuckle and buy him a drink for not taking himself too seriously or to cringe at the possible pretension at work. However, Soft Money still possesses an unspoken righteousness profound enough for me to buy him a shot.

Jel’s spoken righteousness wins few points for new insight, though. “I ain’t afraid / I embrace this war / It ain’t living until you know what it is you’ll die for,” he assures in “WMD.” On “Soft Money, Dry Bones,” Jel’s delivery is too muddled to know why he jumps from describing life in West Oakland, CA to the Swift Boat Veterans for Bush. Opener, “To Buy a Car” has the usual “I ain’t no sellout” screech of defiance where our man emerges from the murk of TV car commercial pitches to imagine a better future having his dope beats hawk Hummers or as Jel glibly puts it, “Kids are going to have street-legal war vehicles to take their kids to soccer.” Of course, as the rapper reminds us of what countless Sunday school lessons taught us: bullshit walks as money talks. Between two blows of smoke, he snaps, “As long as we get paid, you can drive it off a cliff / With your family and dog inside, we don’t give a shit.” Who knows, maybe Jel is really lying to us and he’ll soon drop some phat breaks and a gritty electro bassline that Dodge’s marketers will find to be “street” enough to advertise Scions.

But you probably won’t find that here, Soft Money is full of the sort of guitar riffs that mutter their notes and beats that knock about to break themselves free from dumpsters. “No Solution” is the highlight—Jel lets an organ melody float up in the air to see the world beyond Eden’s walls. He then marches forth with a tick-tackating hip-hop beat and a humming acid-bassline that flows instead of typically thudding. “All Day Breakfast” revives the Anticon WTF? choice of breaks where Jel stumbles out of bed with the prairie morning sun in his eyes as he fades away everything but violins singing like birds. He then parts the clouds by dropping ace jungle polyrhythms and piano melodies that rain down the chimney.


Reviewed by: Cameron Macdonald
Reviewed on: 2006-02-28
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