Jay Jai – Places We Go

 Jay Jai – Places We Go

Jay Jai – Places We Go – Album Review

I’ll just break it down as plain as day to start this off – I’m always in the mood to listen to Jay Jai’s music.

I’ve been a fan since way back in 2015, and it’s been awesome to see this dude continue to evolve and grow as an artist.  Heck, as an individual too y’all – JJ’s never had any problem speaking his mind and I’ve always respected that.  He’s put out clean cuts with no cussin.’  He’s put out some of the dirtiest tracks you’ll ever hear.  He takes on a variety of themes, topics, moods, and moments – and he brings the same level of commitment & dedication to’em each time.  His new album Places We Go has the man sounding seriously inspired at the start and firing at the all-star level we’ve always known him to be capable of at his focused best…let’s check this record out and see where it all goes.

Don’t get me wrong…Jay Jai’s not aiming to be a comedian with his material overall, but he does bust out the occasional line that’ll make you chuckle a bit here & there.  So when “Ghosting” started out with him singing “it’s not about you – I’ve got shit on my mind,” I’ll fully admit, I laughed out loud.  Consider the title…consider the words…and don’t take life so damn seriously – that line is funny!  Everyone and anyone that’s ever been ghosted in any capacity probably figures that it’s all about them 99.9% of the time with very rare exceptions…but here, we find Jay copping that .1% where it’s not about YOU, it’s about him.  “Ghosting” is just over a minute in total length, but it works beyond what your typical intro cut usually establishes…basically, it stands on its own for a track so short and you get a couple of verses and choruses inside such a remarkably short time-frame.  That’s no small accomplishment, and it’s kind of a statement up front if you think about it – JJ’s ready to pack in maximum entertainment into every cut, no matter how long or how short, he’s not cheating the material.  As a result, in a place where I’d normally end up feeling like I want a couple more minutes of a track, “Ghosting” is oddly satisfying.

Now…I don’t tend to go back over the things I’ve previously written, because when you’re dropping an honest assessment of whatever ya hear, not a whole lot of anything should really change, you feel me?  I have the occasional cut here & there that I end up digging a bit more in the aftermath through that whole absence makes the heart grow fonder type shit, but for the most part, I completely rely on the fact that I listen multiple times to anything before I’d ever write a single word about it.  That ends up getting me through all the initial excitement, helps me navigate where the wear & tear might exist, and basically keeps me with an objective perspective and level head when I’m listening to whatever it is that I’m listening to.  So take it with a grain of salt y’all – I’m doin’ my damned best to give you the unfiltered truth in everything I ever say, without the hype, without the BS…an assessment that comes from a real place that has actually listened to the material, you dig?  So trust me when I tell ya – I’m POSITIVE I had nothing but awesome things to say about “Life” when I reviewed it back in early 2022…because this is straight-up single-worthy sound and no set of ears could deny that.  The hooks in this song are freakishly BRILLIANT, and it’s one of Jay’s best performances all-around.  Dude’s oozing with swagger and supreme confidence, gettin’ all kinds of philosophical…he’s genuinely created a cut that’s every bit as thought-provoking as it is entertaining, and I’m certain I would have had nothing but great things to say about it from the original review.  You can read that by clicking here – but rest assured, the moment that “Life” came through my speakers, I not only recognized it, but instantly reached for the volume to turn…it…UP.

Truly, “Life” is so damn good that you immediately wonder how Jai can follow that up with something that’ll keep the energy and interest at the same level.  And I ain’t gonna be the guy to say that he pulled that off entirely…but I wouldn’t go so far as to say the man misfired either.  “Up” is a decent cut, that’s it, that’s all – and honestly, that’s probably the wisest thing that he could have done in following up one of the most single-worthy cuts he’s created in his career with “Life.”  I have my moments here & there with “Up” – there’s some real quality ideas in this track, and a hook that connects too.  It feels a bit more reliant on effects & tech than it would be on the strength of the main ideas at its core – but let’s be real here…when Jay’s singing “I say who…who gon’ lift my soul” or “how can we move up” – he’s got something incredibly special in those lines.  As for the ultra-robotic vibes surrounding that…some days I felt like I liked those moments more than others.  The quality of the music and the performance never wavers, but the focus on the strength of the structure shakes a little here…to me, it felt like this cut had moments of undeniable brilliance, and other spots that didn’t quite measure “Up” in that regard as well.

What you can take away from “Up” is that JJ’s music is going through another chapter of his evolution as an artist, and you’ll feel that continue on somewhat into the title-track of the record to follow as well.  With what’s more of an Emo/Rap bend that straddles that realm between digital and analog – I kind of feel similar towards “Places We Go” as I did towards “Up,” which is really a natural thing when you end up switching horses mid-stream…results tend to vary.  Positives are the lyricism for sure – the performance from Jay on the mic is arguably another one of his best – and the hooks infused with effects on his vocals end up being a huge draw & reason to return to “Places We Go.”  I’m not a massive fan of the flow in the verses…I like what’s being said, and I like how he says it all, but the rhythm itself feels like something we’ve heard in a variety of ways throughout the course of music’s history…and I just think Jay’s gotta be a bit more cautious of that.  Like…for example, when you hear him hit the hooks around the 1:45 mark on “Places We Go,” it’s like a breath of fresh air hits ya again…that’s the uniqueness we’re looking for, and as a result, it’s one of the spots in this song that makes the biggest impact on ya.  Beyond that, like I said…I might not love the way the verses flow on a rhythmic level, but whatever – I’m just one opinion in a world that is overfilled with’em – there’ll be plenty of people that really dig what he’s created there.  What I love is the sound of the commitment and conviction that we hear in his voice throughout the verses…that’s the sound of an artist rapping words that mean something to them, you follow me?  Jai’s got “Places We Go” loaded with serious substance and poetry.

Overall, I feel like Jay’s got a highly underrated voice that deserves a whole lot more attention than I know it already gets…dude’s insanely gifted when it comes right down to it, and he possesses a wildly versatile style that has him achieving stellar results whether he’s singing or rapping.  He remembers to put the personality through the m-i-c, and it makes a huge difference to all of us on the other side of the speakers.  As to whether or not “Trust No One (Remix)” is going to hit the mark for listeners for its theme or content aside, people will connect with the difference Jay makes by putting the personality into his material – make sense?  I think a track like “Trust No One (Remix)” probably has more of a niche appeal when it comes right down to it if we’re examining the verses, chorus, or how it’s structured on the whole, but Jay puts himself in a position to win each & every time he steps up to the mic and makes personality a priority.  “Don’t trust the motherfuckers, don’t trust’em man” is sage advice y’all…and it’s a genuinely kickass hook in this track too…if anything, I think this cut would have benefitted from more of it in there along the way.  Jai’s penchant for variety might get the better of him a bit on “Trust No One (Remix)” – it trades some of his natural accessibility for noticeable versatility and a more stylized vibe.  You’ll fully remember the main hooks of “Trust No One (Remix) though, and that’s never a bad thing.

Production-wise, he’s got this album seriously jammin’ and he should be mighty proud of that.  He’s also proven through many of these tracks that he’s socially aware and looking to use his platform for the greater good, which I’ve got nothing but love for.  I think there’s a bit of evidence that supports how when we choose substance as the main priority in our art, that accessibility often becomes the natural casualty, but in my opinion, it’s a worthy trade.  I hear a track like “Reflection Of Life” and it’s the kind of cut that reveals real growth in an artist like Jay Jai, you know what I mean?  It might not end up taking him to #1, but so what?  “It’s the world we live in…be happy with the scraps we were given” – alright, he’s rapping about something different than I’m talking about, but the fickle way that people listen to music applies equally to a statement like that.  You know what it’s like out there y’all…style almost always wins over real substance unfortunately – and the more you have to say, usually means the more the mainstream is gonna resist what you’re creating as a result.  “Reflection Of Life” continues on with a lot of what Jay’s been getting at through his material on Places We Go…and to be fair, I think there is still a lot of accessible sound to be found in this song too, even if it’s not the main attribute or focus.  In my opinion, what costs him a bit in this particular track is that we don’t quite get that same level of vocal confidence we know the man is capable when he makes the song’s most crucial switch.  Up until that point around the first minute, he’s been totally crushing it – but after that point, when he’s arguably shifting the song into even more meaningful terrain, it sounds like he’s a little unsure of the direction that he wants to take the song’s melody and shooting just a bit wide of the mark he’s looking for between what he hear in the lead and the background.  The idea is spectacular, and I love the way he intends to transition this song to its next level, but I feel like he needs to attack it with more confidence.

Lemme tell ya folks…if you wanna make sure the NEIGHBORHOOD is fully aware that you’re listening to Jay Jai, put on “Slo Down” and you’ll accomplish that mission.  The bass-driven sound of this song is completely wild y’all…turn it up loud & proud, and I’m tellin’ ya, they’ll know you’re playing this track about five towns over!  For the production alone, dude should win an award for what you’ll hear on “Slo Down” – you’d practically have to be the Incredible Hulk to wrestle this bass underneath the red line on the studio boards, but here we are and that’s the case – he’s done it and it sounds incredible.  That being said…Jay’s gotta be careful about adding such a dominant trait too – absolutely everything else in “Slo Down” plays a secondary role to the bass & low-end of this track.  You might not even notice the many details he’s added into the background…the bass is either the feature that’ll bring you back to listen to “Slo Down” again, or it’ll be the distraction that has you hatin’ this aspect of the song because you really can’t get to the rest of it.  It’s that much of a presence that you could only describe it as a monumental moment on Places We Go, I’ll give him that.  But think of it like this…I always have the music on when I’m writing my reviews…and I can barely even concentrate on my own words while having “Slo Down” on at the same time…that low-end bass is GIGANTIC y’all, and by the time I’ve typed out my thoughts on this track, I am thoroughly convinced I might not have written a coherent sentence.

As he slides on into “Summer Legs” and brings a jazzy feel to the vibe & starts singing…what else can I say – I feel like I’ve seen this movie from JJ before, and I know he’s about to get the speakers steamin’ with that sexy & sensual shit he does so well.  While he’s giving it to you in a more G-rated way than he has in the past, I ain’t wrong…”Summer Legs” is about fuckin’ and it’s a topic he’s always been happy to sing about.  Addin’ in the R&B/Jazz into the mix here – I’d put this track right up there with the very best on the album for content, performance, writing, vocals, music…you name it, Jai’s nailed it.  He’s lookin’ to turn that low-end sound up, and he’s right on the line of nearly creating the same issues he had with “Slo Down” by how much of a dominant trait the bass is in the mix of “Summer Legs” too…but I feel like he’s got a more natural accessible appeal and charm working in his favor on this latter track that’ll carry him to a victory in the court of public opinion.  At the end of the day, on our side of the speakers, it’s easy to understand the kind of sound he’s looking to create and what he clearly likes to listen to himself – but he does need to apply a bit of caution that his love for ENORMOUS smooth bass-lines doesn’t overshadow the rest of the hard work he’s putting into the finest details of his songs too.  The reality in the case of “Summer Legs” is similar to what we experienced in the sense of “Slo Down,” in that as long as you appreciate that low-end as much as he does, you’re guaranteed to come back for another listen – it’s a powerful hook of its own, but that’s actually unrelated to the volume or its dominance in the mix.  We like it cause the part itself sounds fantastic…but so do a lot of the other things he’s doin’ and what he’s singing about…the last thing you’d want to happen is for all that to be glossed over by the listeners.  What a voice this dude has though y’all!  I love the way he sings “Summer Legs” with such stellar tone.

I really dig what I hear on “Mesmerized” – this feels fresh to me, and ahead of the rest of the game.  I’d be the first to tell ya that it usually takes a moment like this to catch on and resonate with the people out there listening…but “Mesmerized” is the kind of track that’ll probably end up being one of the universally agreed upon highlights on the record over the course of the time.  Love the sound of the snare on this cut…the subtle synth-horns he’s got set in the distance…there are some really great things going on in this track that feel like they’re the natural evolution of JJ’s music you’d have assumed you’d find.  He’s in that sexually-charged mode again, carrying on from where “Summer Legs” left off just prior – but hey, when you know what you bring to the table is tasty, keep eatin’ I say.  There’s a smoothness to “Mesmerized” that echoes and complements its core sentiment perfectly, and I thought how he switched this track up to drop some bars in the middle of the track was a smart move.  As to whether or not people are out there tasting like chamomile or not, I absolutely do not know…I will say that it’s a possibility, how about that?  LOL!  I was surprised to find this was the description that Jay went with in the imagery of his words on “Mesmerized,” how about that?  I suppose it’s a delicate taste if we’re talkin’ about a palette & all…but don’t most people associate chamomile with tea?  And then like, if we keep going down that road of word association, don’t most people associate tea with grandma?  And then like, if we start thinkin’ about grandma while we’re listening to the rest of the words of this track, we really have to start thinkin’ about whether or not there’s a female on earth that Jay wouldn’t bang!  Respect!  I ain’t judging, I’m just sayin.’  Maybe that’s just me…maybe that’s just my own mind taking this song into some Harold And Maude type shit and the rest of the world would simply listen to that line and wonder why they’re craving tea all of a sudden.  I shouldn’t just try to put this on Jay when there’s a possibility that I’m the twisted one.

So…look…I think a couple things can be true about the final track “Tears (Feat. Mom)” – the first being that it’s intended to be the tributary and heartfelt cut that it truly is.  Obviously this is Jay Jai hurting out loud, communicating the pain of loss, and lamenting the fact that his mother is no longer with us – and the experience he’s created is completely real.  He’s got every right and reason to make this song, there’s catharsis that can be achieved through art that can’t be accessed in any other way that I know of.  Does that make “Tears (Feat. Mom)” the hit of the record?  Probably not in all honesty…but again, a couple things can be true about this song, and I don’t think that JJ made this song with any kind of intentions for it to be a single or a hit – it simply doesn’t need to be.  You make songs like “Tears (Feat. Mom)” so that you can process grief on a personal level, and share it with the few people out there that might have some semblance of understanding what you’re going through.  I certainly feel empathy when I’m listening to this track, because pain is genuinely universal…if you’ve got a heart inside ya, you should definitely feel the sting of loss that Jay’s detailed here on this last cut.  It creates the kind of strong conclusion you can’t argue against…like…you couldn’t just add another track after “Tears” and expect the record to carry on, know what I mean?  It’s a definitive ending.  I don’t know if I would say that it’s a song that necessarily belongs on Places We Go in comparison to the rest of the material that’s on the album, but I do appreciate that it’s a track that will help Jai through the catharsis of its release.  So in that sense, I’m all for its inclusion, even if I think it might have been more effective as a standalone release.  That being said, Jai’s been all about the variety from day one as I’ve already cited…so in that sense, the finality of “Tears” works well enough…I think the reality is that this last cut is much more for him than it is for any of us, but it’s equally true that the value in that is more important than anything.

Places We Go is a highly interesting album for Jay Jai…some great ideas, some stellar production, some highs and lows in the variety of his ideas, but overall, it’s a real step forward in his evolution.  This is the record before that next real breakthrough to follow, trust me on that…expect greatness from this man.

Find out more about Jay Jai from his official page at Facebook here:  https://www.facebook.com/vorietipack

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