Jeru The Damaja, Divine Design

Christopher R. Weingarten

By Christopher R. Weingarten

on 04.22.11 in Reviews

Like the kung-fu imagery that often peppers his rhymes, Jeru preaches positivity, discipline and rejecting material possessions…but, yes, he will assuredly beat you down if he has to. It's this combo of street and book smarts that made his breakout record, 1996's Wrath of the Math, such an intriguing alternative to the glock- and cash-waving mid-'90s — taking an anti-gangsta/anti-bling/anti-industry stance (but menacing nonetheless) that redefined the attitude of hip-hop consciousness. On his fourth album (and his best for an indie), Divine Design, Jeru still raps like he's killing hip-hop so it can live, but his beats (produced by Ed Dantes and Sabor) are far more lo-fi than the DJ Premier punch-outs that punctuated his best-known work. Jeru's hyper-clever rhyme patterns still shine over the simplistic, basement-level drum machine thumps; spitting spirited polemics (the sardonic label exec screw job "Da Game"), conscious spoken-word calls to action ("Rize") and deadly boast sessions ("True Skillz").