[image-1] If you couldn’t tell by the album cover for Here I Go, Jah Jr. is still kicking. After all this time, the two-time John Lennon Songwriting Award winner is still an unmovable force in the Lowcountry, producing music faster than ever in the last year. His latest release, out now on Bandcamp, is a new sonic direction for Charleston’s favorite Dublin, Ga. native, providing electronic soul beats and more varied lyrical themes.
“The main concepts that come to mind for Here I Go is, ‘Here I am,'” Jah says. “It’s been some months since I gave y’all a project and those projects were reflecting on Dublin. So, now, let me bring you into my life and what’s going on now.
The new musical textures might be the most obvious characteristic, but Jah’s personality doesn’t change much: The man’s still a storyteller at heart.
“I’m homeless with a degree/ I couldn’t figure it out/ spoke to momma/ been some months since I been to the house,” he raps on the open-book track “Scarred.”
“Man, I grew up on that west side/ up the street from Telfair/ wrote rhymes on my bedside with dreams of going elsewhere/ I grew up with no health care/ salt water for that strep throat,” he says on “Hustler’s Dream feat. Bert.”
“[On Here I Go] I wanted to let people know that I am from Dublin, but that’s not all of who I am,” he says. “Let me talk about my present life, let me talk to people about a point in my life when I was in Savannah after I had recently graduated, what I went through with that, let me reflect on my love life a little bit, just talk about the nastiest side of my love life.”
Fans of Back 2 da Dub, who missed 2019’s Still Dub, might be surprised at Jah’s trajectory on Here I Go, but that’s because they’re missing an integral piece to the puzzle.
Still Dub acts as a middle ground between these relatively different LPs, giving just as many ferocious rhymes as Back 2 da Dub, while still embracing the melody of Here I Go. Jah took those harmonic cues a step further by singing most of the tracks on his latest.
[content-1] “From November to January, a lot of the songs I wrote had me singing,” he says. “I would practice them daily, just singing them around the house or out and about, singing them in the car. I would try them at different octaves, different notes, and see what I felt sounded the best.”
The hook on “Crucified” shows Jah grabbing the mic and giving it his all, balancing a passionate, raspy tone with moments of honesty and clarity. “I take pride in just trying to evolve as much as I can,” he says. “I’m on such a level of happiness and just hunger as far as music that the sky’s the limit at this point.”
The listener can really feel the smile on Jah’s face while he sings tracks like “Ain’t Studdin That.” It’s also easy to hear how much simple and plain fun the rapper’s having on some of these songs.
“She love the spirit inside me/ she fuck with me for the quality/ I just be smokin’ a lot of trees/ hit up my dog for the quality,” he raps on “Quality.”
Jah’s always had an ability to put his emotions right in the listener’s face, and he let’s it just happen naturally on Here I Go. “I tend to put myself in those moments again, because a lot of the stuff I speak on is extremely vivid,” he says. “That’s where the tone in my voice, the pain, whatever it is you hear, that’s where it comes from.”
The songwriter’s happiness isn’t a facade, as he points out his optimism for his upcoming material. Even admitting that there was a recent brief moment where he didn’t want to do music anymore, he came out the other side happier. “I’ve come too far to stop now,” Jah says. “And usually when you experience hard times or experience those moments of ‘I don’t want to do this,’ that usually means a breakthrough is coming.”
Stay cool. Support City Paper.
City Paper has been bringing the best news, food, arts, music and event coverage to the Holy City since 1997. Support our continued efforts to highlight the best of Charleston with a one-time donation or become a member of the City Paper Club.