Releasing two albums in one year is something you'd expect from Jaee Bryant. In 2017 and 2018, the rapper/producer released three albums and two singles, garnering a premiere with hip-hop publication Mass Appeal before many in his hometown even knew his music.
But, as the old adage says: easy come, easy go. Despite the quick success in music, Bryant took the upward momentum he built and shifted his focus to his clothing line, Never Say Ruin, while largely keeping quiet about new tunes in 2019.
"I was working on music, but not releasing music because I wasn't confident in my music," Bryant says. "Right now, I'm confident. Like, 'OK, we've got something that I like.'"
His new assurance is bolstered by the release of his latest album, Too Serious for Television, and the announcement that another LP, To Live and Die in Charleston, will be released before 2020 is done. Too Serious for Television, dropping on Valentine's Day, attempts to validate the rapper's self-esteem and it gives a glimpse into the self-discovery he experienced during his year off from music.
Bryant dubs the album's sonic style G-Jazz; the beats have an easy cool, relying on relaxed instrumental samples. Lyrically, the rapper provides a series of hip-hop short stories, writing notes and everyday life descriptions just as often as he throws out fully formed ideas. At a cursory glance, it's similar to 2018's Evil Lurks, but unlike previous releases, Bryant forces himself to be a more malleable performer.
Bryant's usual head-nodding rap style is present over the rainy day beats of tracks like "Televised" and "ROBOT CHICKEN." The rapper says what he needs to, rarely belaboring a track past the three-minute mark, but what's so different about Too Serious for Television is how much fun Bryant sounds like he's having.
"This album is more about me bringing the real," Bryant says, contrasting it to reality television. "I just wanted to express myself not in a fake way — I wanted to give you the real."
The rapper and clothing-line owner directly addresses his change in attitude on the spoken R&B jam "Prototype 2.0," one of the album's most surprising and entertaining tracks.
"Back in 2018, baby, I was going through a lot/ but when I met you, shit changed a lot," he says over the song's smooth '70s soul track. "I was from depression, anxiety/ now it's 2020 and I'm realizing that I'm fucking happy/ because you're still on my mind, baby."
Bryant's reincarnation is most apparent on formula-breakers like "Prototype 2.0," the rap-soul outro of "Playa Playa," and some electro-funk breaks on "Yahshua's Groove" and "SILKK'S GROOVE."
None of that's to say that Bryant has forsaken his roots — the guy can still use his words to slash through a beat when he wants to. On "Come Up Plan," the rapper drops braggadocious verses, shifting his flow in as many ways as he can in the scant two-minute runtime. "TERRIFIED," an outlier for the LP, is a paranoid sing-rap track where Bryant expresses fear of jail, fear of people that might hurt him, and fear over life.
Too Serious for Television is overall a more positive album than The TrifectAAA or Evil Lurks, thanks in large part to Bryant's personal development. "The 2020 Jaee Bryant [is] more dedicated to myself. I'm going to worry about others, but I have to focus on myself and focus on my health and focus on what's right for me," he says. "2020 Jaee Bryant is about living life and enjoying the success."
"Game is to be Sold, Not to be Sold$" embodies Bryant's latest ethos, aspirations, and his newfound self-worth. "Born and raised with Charleston/ gotta make my city scream/ the world is full of pimps and players, like myself/ never sold my soul to anyone because I know my wealth," he raps in the first verse.
There's a sense of triumph in Too Serious for Television that Bryant's long-time listeners are likely to sense. The happiness he's worked for is discernable. Even when the production sounds downtrodden or he's rapping about daily anxiety, there's a dominating feeling that Bryant knows he'll succeed and escape whatever hardship he's facing. "This album was very therapeutic for me, very therapeutic," he says, "and I'm just happy for it."
That feeling is hard to hide and easy to be influenced by.