Christopher Michael Jensen - There's Meaning Underground
Today, we review Christopher Michael Jensen's release There's Meaning Underground. This is what I would consider "True-School" hip-hop in the vein of old school acts such as A Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul, The Pharcyde and the likes.
The production work (various) is definitely where the album shines the most. The mix is nearly flawless--a rarity I find amongst underground rap albums. Every sound, including voice, sits perfectly in its appropriate part of the sonic spectrum.
"Minnesota" has the dopest sample I've heard in a long time. This is a beat I would stamp "ridiculous", in the best kind of way. Unfortunately, they filter down the sample during the verses so you can barely hear it. This is a common hip-hop production technique employed to give the emcee some breathing room, as well as make the listener yearn for the hook, but for me, it sucked the life out of the song.
"Alone", my favorite track on here by the way, is brave in every sense. The drums have an off-beat rhythm that's mesmerizing; the music is dark and eerie providing the emotional backdrop for some truly "real talk" lyrics, Chris talks about battling loneliness in a way every man is all too familiar with. A fantastically haunting song.
Where the album suffers at times, is in CMJ's delivery. It has a dated vibe to it. And where one might stop and make the argument that the overall style is old school, so what does it matter, that doesn't give license to not bring something fresh to the table. I'm reminded of acts like Common, Talib Kweli, Doom, Mos Def, Ghostface, and the list goes on. These are all artists that can rap on a beat that could have easily been released in the early nineties, and yet they sound completely relevant to our times today (whether the youth agrees with that statement or not).
This is certainly not a lost case though; Chris is not short on talent. He's got the flow (just listen to him on "When It's All Said And Done"), the thought provoking--often introspective--lyrics, and obvious passion. He just needs to nail down the swagger component more. An often overlooked, and subtle ingredient of a great emcee. Show me a dope rapper, and I will show you his swagger.
All in all, There's Meaning Underground is a solid effort. A few kinks, but still a consistent listen throughout, and it manages to surprise every once in a while as well. I found "Season's Greetings" to be one of those beautiful surprises. If Chris is the one singing on that song, then shame on him for not doing it more often. The boy can hold a note. There's not much pretense with Christopher Michael Jensen (consider his artist name). But it's his "true-to-self" style that makes him an artist worth checking out.
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